Nine people were injured Tuesday afternoon in a brief but violent confrontation between two groups outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence on Washington’s embassy row.
All nine were taken to hospitals, and at least one was reported to be in serious condition. D.C. police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said two people were arrested.
From initial accounts, and from videos made at the scene, it appeared that fighting broke out between a group of men who were standing in front of the ambassador’s residence and a group of men and women who stood across the street in Sheridan Circle near Dupont Circle.
Indications were that the scuffling may have stemmed from political conflict within Turkey, whose president is on a visit to Washington.
Several members of the first group wore dark suits and ties, and a couple of them waved small Turkish flags. One or two members of the other group carried placards expressing support for a jailed Turkish political figure.
One of the placards said “Free Demirtas Now.” It appeared to refer to Selahattin Demirtas, who was a leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party. At the time of his arrest in November, he was regarded as a strong opponent of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan met here Tuesday with President Trump.
In a video of Tuesday’s confrontation, individual skirmishes occur around Sheridan Circle, as those in dark suits appear to rush across the Sheridan Circle roadway toward the other group. Some of those coming from the direction of the ambassador’s residence are shown shoving and kicking. Police dart from one confrontation to the other, trying to keep order. But the unruliness appeared relatively brief, lasting no more than a minute or two.
In one of the skirmishes, a man in a dark suit, who is carrying a furled flag, seemingly that of Turkey, appears to be kicking at a demonstrator who is on the Sheridan Circle sidewalk, holding his hands protectively to his head. A bullhorn lies beside him.
At the outset, it appeared that about two dozen men and women assembled for the demonstration along the perimeter of the circle. A similar number of people, most or all of them men, stood closer to the ambassador’s residence.
Turkey is in an internal conflict with Kurdish insurgent groups. One of groups’ demands has been for creation of an independent Kurdistan. Both Turkey and the United States consider the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a terrorist group.
Although he led a pro-Kurdish party in Turkey, Demirtaş has said he is neither a member or sympathizer of the PKK organization.
Traffic on Sheridan Circle NW was backed up for a time as a result of the protest.
Embassy officials could not be reached immediately.
The Secret Service referred questions to the Turkish Embassy and to D.C. police. Many D.C. police officers took part in trying to quell the disorder.