US decries Washington brawl during Turkish President's visit

Turkey blamed the violence outside its ambassador`s residence on demonstrators linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Reuters| Last Updated: May 18, 2017, 09:07 AM IST

Washington: The United States said on Wednesday it was voicing its "strongest possible" concern to Turkey over a street brawl that erupted between protesters and Turkish security personnel during President Tayyip Erdogan`s visit to Washington, DC.

Turkey blamed the violence outside its ambassador`s residence on demonstrators linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), but Washington`s police chief called it a "brutal attack" on peaceful protesters.

Police said 11 people were injured, including a Washington police officer, and two people were arrested for assault. At least one of those arrested was a protester.

"We are communicating our concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

A video posted online showed men in dark suits chasing anti-government protesters and punching and kicking them as police intervened. Two men were bloodied from head wounds as bystanders assisted dazed protesters.

Washington Police Chief Peter Newsham told a news conference on Wednesday police had a good idea of most of the assailants` identities and were investigating with the Secret Service and State Department.

One of the men arrested, Jalal Kheirabadi, told Reuters he was being beaten by three or four people when a DC police officer accused him of assault. He spoke by phone on Wednesday night after he was released pending a June court hearing.

Kheirabadi, 42, of Fairfax, Virginia, said he attended the protest to urge the United States to continue its support for Kurdish forces in Syria. He said he remembered being punched by three or four of Erdogan`s guards and seeing a DC police officer fall, but he did not recall hitting the officer.

"He stood up and protected me from them, and then he handcuffed me. He was a real gentleman, I appreciated that," said Kheirabadi, adding that he immediately apologised to the officer.

Kheirabadi said he has lived in the United States for 13 years with his family, including a young son, and had never been in legal trouble in the United States before his arrest. "I didn`t go there to fight," he said. "It just happened."