Washington Isn’t Istanbul
Washington has enough problems today without having to add other nations’ bad habits to the local political culture. Thus it’s good news that the D.C. police have issued arrest warrants for 12 members of the security detail that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan brought to the nation’s capital last month.
Apparently believing that Istanbul rules apply anywhere, the security men attacked and beat up anti-Erdogan protesters in front of the Turkish embassy on Massachusetts Avenue. Recordings show them kicking and beating the protesters in Sheridan Circle. Nine protesters ended up in the hospital, and two U.S. Secret Service officers and one D.C. cop were injured in the melee. Seven of the Turks face felony assault charges.
The arrest warrants are symbolic because the accused are back in Turkey, but they send an important message. This may be another day at the office for Mr. Erdogan’s thugs, but it isn’t normal behavior in the United States, where peaceful protest is protected by the Constitution, and that includes protesting against foreign heads of state.
We understand the concerns about foreign governments attempting to file criminal charges against U.S. diplomats or military personnel while serving overseas. Diplomatic immunity often protects offenses committed in the U.S. by foreign officials. The U.S. also has important security interests with Turkey and the hyper-sensitive Mr. Erdogan. But the D.C. police are right to use this incident to draw a bright line. The U.S. welcome mat for foreign leaders doesn’t include turning assaults on protesters by security agents into another of the city’s tourist attractions.
Appeared in the June 16, 2017, print edition as ‘Washington Isn’t Istanbul.’