Hundreds gathered in Lafayette Park to protest Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit to the White House and actions in Syria. Photo by Mark Satter/Medill News Service
WASHINGTON -- Hundreds of protesters rallied near the White House on Wednesday as President Donald Trump met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, voicing opposition to Erdogan's visit and to Turkey's invasion of northern Syria.
Gathered in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House, advocates for Kurdish, Armenian and Greek interests marched and chanted "Stop Turkish Invasion, "Shame on Trump" and "Long live YPG," referring to the People's Protection Units, Syrian Kurdish forces who fought to rid northern Syria of Islamic State militants.
Erdogan ordered Turkish forces to invade northern Syria in early October after Trump ordered U.S. forces to leave the area.
Sam Humiston, who said he recently came back from Syria after volunteering with the Syrian Democratic Forces, said "Turkey is looking at Syria with a renewed Ottoman mindset. Turkey has always had an issue with politicized Kurdish-ness."
"Trump needs to stop supporting the Turkish military," Humiston said.
In May 2017, on a visit to the United States, Erdogan's security detail attacked protesters who were advocating for Kurdish interests in Washington near the Turkish ambassador's residence. The attack provoked outrage from the Kurdish community.
Before the protest on Wednesday, Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, wrote a letter to the State Department and the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department asking the two agencies to protect the rights of people to protest against Erdogan's visit. The letter was co-signed by 40 other members of Congress.
"While Erdogan has rejected these freedoms in Turkey, he and his security detail must abide by them here," Crenshaw said. "His ability to act as an authoritarian ruler ends when he sets foot on American soil."
The actions of Erdogan's security detail in 2017 influenced a number of Wednesday's protesters to attend the rally. Zhyar Abdul, a Kurdish-American, said it was "80 percent of why I'm here today."
Police patrolled the protest, defusing tensions after a Turkish man confronted protesters at the entrance to the park
The Armenian National Committee of America was also present at the protest. Emil Sanamyan, an Armenian American, said the assault on protesters in 2017 motivated him to attend the event. Sanamyan said he also was there to protest Trump's foreign policy decisions.
On Oct. 29, the House of Representatives passed a resolution which recognized and condemned the Armenian genocide, in which around 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Empire. Turkey denies that a genocide took place and the vote in the House of Representatives further strained tensions with Turkey before Erdogan's visit.
Video by Mark Satter, Medill News Service.