Another US appearance by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has descended into violence
Violence broke out at a speech by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in New York after an audience member heckled the Turkish leader.
Erdogan was addressing supporters at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square on Thursday evening when he was interrupted by several demonstrators.
"You're a terrorist, get out of my country," one protester shouted before he was punched and dragged away. Erdogan was in New York for the UN General Assembly.
Footage from the event shows protesters being pushed and punched as they are ejected from the venue by suited men, thought to be either members of Erdogan’s security team or hotel security staff.
The incident saw the venue erupt, with many members of the crowd chanting Erdogan’s name to drown out the protesters, who said their aim was to publicly condemn the president's policies in Turkey, Syria and Iraq.
1. Yet again, Erdogan's security detail beats up American protesters. It appears he has given the orders directly pic.twitter.com/TofzV9vi9v
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) September 21, 2017
One of the protesters was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a picture of Michael Israel, an American who was killed in a Turkish airstrike while volunteering with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
— Botin Kurdistani (@kurdistannews24) September 22, 2017
Meghan Bodette, a protester who fimed the violence, said in a Twitter message: “Erdogan should not be able to speak here unchallenged, and we challenged him because the American people need to know that a state that claims to be our ally is hindering the fight against ISIS in Syria and destroying civilian lives.”
How did fight start?
Police sources told the New York Times the fight appeared to have been started by competing protesters, not by Erdogan’s security forces, who have a history of violent run-ins in the United States.
During Erdogan's last visit to the US in May, his bodyguards attacked a group of peaceful protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington.
Nine people were hospitalised, and videos showed the episode in vivid detail and Erdogan watching the attack from a vehicle parked nearby.
— Amerika'nın Sesi (@VOATurkish) May 17, 2017
Fifteen Turkish security officials now face assault charges and the US State Department said the violence was intended to limit free speech on “American soil”.
However, there appears to have been little diplomatic fallout from the latest incident. Speaking after a meeting with Erdogan in the wake of the incident, US President Donald Trump said: “We are as close as we’ve ever been”.
He's running a very difficult part of the world
- Donald Trump praises Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Trump went on to praise the Turkish president’s leadership despite a domestic crackdown on critics. "(Erdogan) has become a friend of mine," Trump said, as the two leaders posed for photographs on the fringes of the UN General Assembly. "He's running a very difficult part of the world."
The effusive praise comes in despite moves earlier this week by the US to freeze arms sales to Erdogan's bodyguards.
Trump's predecessor Barack Obama had criticised the Erdogan government's jailing of journalists and a purge from government of those suspected of disloyalty to the veteran leader following last July's coup attempt.
More than 140,000 public sector employees have been suspended or sacked under a state of emergency imposed after the attempted putsch against Erdogan that left 250 dead.