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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Thursday, October 19, 2017

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Turkish President’s Speech in New York witnesses violence

The violent scenes were witnessed

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NEW YORK, U.S. - Controversial Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s speech in New York witnessed scenes of violence after protesters disrupted his speech, being delivered in Turkish, screaming at the leader and calling him names.

The violent scenes were witnessed New York’s Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square on Thursday afternoon when protesters began screaming right in the middle of Erdogan’s speech, saying, “You’re a terrorist. Get out of my country!” 

The ballroom saw a handful of protesters but many attendees chanted Erdogan’s name to drown out the protesters.

Soon after social media channels were flooded with videos of the incident, showing protesters.

One of the protester was seen 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, or Y.P.G.

The protester was seen being punched and slapped by several attendees as security personnel removed them from the room. 

Security officials are also said to have removed at least one person who had assaulted the protesters.

Meghan Bodette, who identified herself as one of six protesters, said their goal was “to call attention to the Turkish state’s war crimes and human rights abuses against the Kurdish people,” both in Turkey and in Syria.

Bodette 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.”

Speaking to reporters later, Halil Demir, a Turkish-American who works for a humanitarian organization, said he had been standing near the back of the room when three protesters stood up in rapid succession.

He further added that a young man, a young woman holding a green banner and a middle-aged man stood up. 

Bodette explained that the flag was of the Women’s Protection Units, or Y.P.J., the female counterpart to the Y.P.G.

Demir added that the young man was pulled out of the room, and the woman left on her own after being told to do so. 

Demir further said he saw security guards push the middle-aged man, who fell to the ground. 

It was not known if the guards were part of Erdogan’s security detail, the United States Secret Service or the hotel’s security team.

He said, “The third man screamed, and people were screaming at him. It didn’t take long. Seconds, really.”

Demir also added that he later saw the man on the floor, handcuffed, outside the ballroom where Erdogan was speaking.

Erdogan’s speech was part of an event by the Turkish American National Steering Committee.

Following the commotion, witnesses said that Erdogan appeared unfazed and resumed speaking less than two minutes later.

In a statement released later, the New York Police Department said about five protesters were “briefly detained” but that no arrests were made, and no injuries were reported.

Stephen P. Davis, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, said, “It appears that it started when pro and anti demonstrators kind of clashed, and it started a little bit of a physical confrontation. But at that point, the people were separated and broken out and brought out of the venue.”

Davis warned that the understanding of what happened was still preliminary.

Kathleen Duffy, a spokeswoman for Marriott International’s New York City hotels, estimated that more than 2,000 people had attended the event.

Duffy added that only “a very small” number had been escorted out.

Meanwhile, a police official said anonymously that it appeared the fight had been instigated by competing protesters, not by Erdogan’s security forces.

After his speech, Erdogan met with President Trump and American diplomats.

 

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