For Immediate Release
Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
tel. (202) 775-1918
Rep. Crenshaw Leads Congressional Call on State Department and DC Police to Protect First Amendment Rights during Erdogan Visit to Washington
ANCA Holding November 13th White House Protest of Erdogan-Trump Meeting
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) is calling on his Congressional colleagues to join him in asking the State Department and the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department “to ensure President Erdogan and his security detail are aware of and understand that Americans enjoy First Amendment rights to assembly and speech,” reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
In separate Congressional sign-on letters – addressed to Cam Henderson, the State Department’s Chief of Protocol, and Chief Peter Newsham of the Metropolitan Police Department – legislators will underscore that, “while President Erdogan has been successful in rolling back the freedoms of the Turkish people, he does not get to exercise his authoritarian bent in our nation’s capital.” They will reference that, “during past visits by the Turkish President, Americans exercising their First Amendment rights were assaulted by pro-Erdogan protesters and President Erdogan’s security detail.” The letter to the State Department specifically stresses that “those who wish to assemble and speak out against the Turkish regime and its leader are free to do so peacefully and without violence from President Erdogan’s security detail.”
The ANCA is encouraging legislators to co-sign the Crenshaw letter, which will be forwarded to the DC Police and State Department prior to the planned Trump-Erdogan meeting at the White House on Wednesday, November 13th.
“We join with Rep. Crenshaw and his Congressional colleagues in demanding strong federal and municipal protections for peaceful American protesters against renewed attacks by Erdogan’s security detail,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We are encouraging legislators, in the House and Senate, to join this bipartisan defense of our First Amendment freedoms, and will – next Wednesday – exercise our Constitutional rights by protesting Erdogan’s violence –at home and abroad, including right here in our nation’s capital.”
Earlier in the week, the ANCA sent a letter to Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser inquiring whether the city has received any written assurances from the White House, Department of State, or other relevant law enforcement that the First Amendment rights of peaceful protesters will be protected and that Erdogan’s security detail traveling to Washington DC next week will not include the those who assaulted protesters in 2017. A copy of the ANCA’s letter is available here.
The ANCA has teamed up with Greek American, Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac American, Kurdish American, Arab American and other human rights groups in organizing protests both at the White House and Sheridan Circle, where Erdogan ordered attacks against peaceful protesters in May, 2017. The anti-Erdogan protest is currently planned for November 13th at 12 noon across from the White House and will continue at the Sheridan Circle. The timing of the White House protest is subject to change based on the Trump-Erdogan White House meeting schedule.
On May 16, 2017, ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian videotaped the brutal attack of peaceful protesters by President Erdogan’s security detail and supporters at Washington, DC’s Sheridan Circle, across from the Turkish Ambassador’s residence, where Erdogan was scheduled to have a closed-door meeting with think tank leaders. Hamparian’s viral video showed pro-Erdogan forces crossing a police line and beating peaceful protesters – elderly men and several women – who were on the ground bleeding during most of the attack. Voice of America video of the attacks offered strong evidence that President Erdogan had personally ordered the attack.
Nineteen perpetrators were indicted for the brutal beatings, which included 15 members of Turkish President Erdogan’s security detail, and two Canadians, who reportedly repatriated to Turkey. All 19 defendants were indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit a crime of violence, with a bias crime enhancement – charges of hate crimes – which carry a maximum 15 years prison sentence. Two of those indicted – Eyup Yildirim and Sinan Narin – pled guilty to one assault charge and served one year in prison. Based on a plea deal, the hate-crimes component of the charges were removed. They were released in March, 2018.
On June 6th, with a vote of 397 to 0, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously condemned Turkey in response to the attacks, taking a powerful stand against Ankara’s attempts to export its violence and intolerance to America’s shores. H.Res.354, spearheaded by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), Ranking Democrat Eliot Engel (D-NY), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and received the public backing of then House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). On July 14th, the U.S. House also unanimously adopted an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Bill, championed by former Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman David Trott (R-MI), raising objections to a proposed U.S. sale of handguns for use by the very Erdogan security detail involved in the May 16th attack.
The May 16, 2017, protest in front of the Turkish Ambassador’s residence was a continuation of a demonstration held earlier in the day in front of the White House, co-hosted by the ANCA. As President Trump met with President Erdogan, human rights and religious rights groups were joined by representatives of the Kurdish, Yezidi and Armenian communities to call attention to the Erdogan regime’s escalating repression against free press, the Kurdish and other ethnic communities, as well as Turkey’s ongoing obstruction of justice for the Armenian Genocide.