Erdogan's Security Roughs Up Journalists, Staff, Protesters at D.C. Think Tank
The White House tread carefully around reports that security for Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were abusive to journalists and think-tank staff at a speech in D.C. today.
In town for the Nuclear Security Summit, Erdogan met at the St. Regis hotel with Vice President Joe Biden this morning before a scheduled lunchtime address at the Brookings Institution on global challenges facing Turkey.
He was faced by a mix of supporters and protesters outside of the think tank. Supporters held signs such as "no difference between ISIS and PKK," while protesters held Kurdish flags and accused Erdogan of being a "war criminal."
Foreign Policy magazine's Paul McCleary reported one D.C. cop telling Erdogan's security, "You're part of the problem; you guys need to control yourselves and let these people protest."
People other than protesters were reporting mistreatment and chaos:
This Erdogan security detail called me "a pkk whore"
— Amberin Zaman (@amberinzaman) March 31, 2016
In front of Brookings for Turkish Pres. Erdogan speech, one of his security assaulted Brookings employee. It's crazy — paul mcleary (@paulmcleary) March 31, 2016
— Mahir Zeynalov (@MahirZeynalov) March 31, 2016
Journalist Adem Yavuz Arslan has been kicked out of #Brookings building by Erdogan's men. They are pressuring Brookings to take me out, too
— Ali H. Aslan (@aliHaslan) March 31, 2016
Erdogan's security seized some kind of banner from protestors, rips it apart - Brookings #Erdogan speech pic.twitter.com/7oAxxmQc1U — ilhan tanir (@WashingtonPoint) March 31, 2016
Asked about the violence from Erdogan's detail at today's briefing, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said he'd seen media reports of what happened at Brookings.
"The one thing I would say is, obviously, the United States strongly supports freedom of the press and independent media in every country in the world, including Turkey," Rhodes said.
"We have in the past indicated our concerns about some of the steps that have been taken against journalists inside of Turkey. So that's been, you know, a longstanding position of the United States and something that we have raised directly with the Turkish government and will continue to do so."
Rhodes stressed, "Again, I don't know the precise circumstances of what took place at Brookings, but obviously our position on this matter, whether it's here in the United States obviously, but also in Turkey, it is that we respect and support the right for there to be independent journalism."