May 17 (UPI) -- An altercation during a demonstration at Washington's Turkish Embassy during a White House visit from Turkey's president injured nine people, police said.
Two arrests were made, Metropolitan Police spokesman Dustin Steinbeck said, and two people were seriously injured in the brief confrontation Tuesday. The altercation happened between a group carrying Turkish flags and another group carrying placards reading "Free Demirtas Now," an apparent reference to Selahattin Demirtas, leader of Turkey's pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party. Demirtas was arrested in November.
Another pro-Kurdish group in Turkey, the Kursitan Workers' Party, or PKK, is regarded a terrorist group by both Turkey and the United States. Demirtas denies involvement with the PKK.
The State Department said in a statement it was "concerned by the violent incidents involving protestors and Turkish security personnel."
"Violence is never an appropriate response to free speech, and we support the rights of people everywhere to free expression and peaceful protest," said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. "We are communicating our concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms."
Each group protesting Tuesday at the Sheridan Circle Embassy was comprised of about two dozen people, The Washington Post said.
People in Turkey consider Demirtas a strong opponent of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who visited President Donald Trump at the White House on Tuesday. Erdogan is staying at Blair House, across the street of the White House, on his trip and was not believed to be at the Embassy during the violence.
Following the meeting between Trump and Erdogan on Tuesday, which occurred prior to the demonstration and confrontation, Erdogan said the U.S. armament of Kurdish forces in Syria last week would "never be accepted." The decision to arm the Kurds, who are regarded by the United States as competent fighters, to fight the Islamic State, came during preparations for an assault on the IS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria.
The Turkish government decries the ties between Syrian Kurds and Turkish Kurds, who have sought an independent nation. The Trump administration has sought to assure Erdogan that weapons delivered to Kurds in Syria will not end up in the possession of Turkish Kurds.