Armenian Assembly Of America’s Statement On Turkish Attack Against Peaceful Protesters

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The Armenian Assembly of America joins with Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Representative Ed Royce (R-CA), and others in condemning in the strongest terms yesterday’s brutal attack by Turkish bodyguards against those protesting in front of the Turkish Ambassador’s residence.

Senator McCain said via Twitter: “This is the United States of America. We do not do this here. There is no excuse for this kind of thuggish behavior.” Mayor Bowser stated: “What we saw yesterday – a violent attack on a peaceful demonstration – is an affront to D.C. values and our rights as Americans. I strongly condemn these actions.”

In a press conference today, D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said several of President Erdogan’s guards had guns, making the incident especially “dicey” for D.C. officers trying to quell the violence and restore order.

While Turkey has clamped down and repressed its own citizens, including thousands of journalists, there is no place for this in the United States of America.

In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Rep. Ed Royce demanded accountability for the attacks. “To send a clear message that these acts of violence will not be tolerated, I ask that you immediately look into this matter and bring all appropriate criminal charges before these individuals leave the United States. Agents of foreign governments should never be immune from prosecution for felonious behavior. Above all else, they should never be permitted to violate the protections afforded by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”

Unfortunately, this is not the first such episode and represents a troubling pattern – whether it was last year’s event at Brookings Institute wherein Turkish presidential bodyguards and pro-Erdogan supporters violently tried to bar people from attending the think-tank event or Turkey’s shameless support of Azerbaijan’s ongoing ceasefire violations against Armenia and Artsakh, which included the ISIS-like mutilation of an elderly couple and the beheading of three Armenian soldiers.

We urge all people of good will to condemn this latest affront by Turkey on basic freedoms and call upon Congress and the Administration to do so as well. Over 80 Members of Congress have expressed their concerns about the “continuing erosion of human rights and the dramatic decline of democratic values in Turkey” in a letter sent to President Trump prior to his meeting with President Erdogan.

Turkey must not be allowed to export its denial of free speech here in America, of which a State Department spokesperson said in a separate statement that “violence is never an appropriate response to free speech, and we support the rights of people everywhere to free expression and peaceful protest.”