Bipartisan “Stand for Free Speech” to Take Place at Sheridan Circle on July 19 at 8:30 a.m.
WASHINGTON—Members of Congress will join victims of Turkey’s May 16 attack on peaceful protesters in D.C. at a July 19 “Stand for Free Speech” at Sheridan Circle, site of the unprecedented foreign assault against U.S. protesters which hospitalized nine people, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
The early morning event will start at 8:30 am and continue until approximately 10:00 am. Among the U.S. legislators who have agreed to take part and offer remarks are Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), who Co-Chairs the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and Rep. Dave Trott (R-MI), Co-Chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus. Additional U.S. Legislators are expected to lend their voices to the event, which is supported by a broad range of non-governmental organizations devoted to human and civil rights.
This bipartisan defense of First Amendment freedom of speech and assembly was first raised by several members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, during the panel’s May 25th mark-up of legislation condemning this attack and, later that same day, at a Europe Subcommittee hearing, led by Rep. Rohrabacher.
The July 19th gathering comes a month after Washington, DC law enforcement issued 18 arrest warrants – including a dozen against Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s bodyguards and two Canadians of Turkish origin. Two Americans of Turkish heritage have already been arrested for assault and various related crimes. Hours after the arrest warrants were issued, the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned U.S. Ambassador to Turkey John Bass and, according to a press statement, “emphasized that the decision, which clearly was not taken as a result of an impartial and independent investigation, is unacceptable.” President Erdogan later reacted angrily to news of these arrests, asking “What kind of a law is this? … If they [bodyguards] are not going to protect me, why would I bring them with me to America?” Erdogan vowed to fight the charges leveled against his bodyguards.
The ANCA’s Hamparian was videotaping live at the scene of the May 16th attack, which took place in front of the Turkish Ambassador’s residence where President Erdogan was scheduled to have a closed-door meeting with think tank leaders. Hamparian’s video showed pro-Erdogan forces crossing a police line and beating peaceful protesters – elderly men and several women – who were on the ground bleeding during most of the attack.
Hamparian testified before a May 25th Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing on this matter. Joining him at the hearing were Ms. Lusik Usoyan, Founder and President of the Ezidi Relief Fund; Mr. Murat Yusa, a local businessman and protest organizer; and Ms. Ruth Wedgwood, Edward B. Burling Professor of International Law and Diplomacy, at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Usoyan and Yusa were victims of the brutal assault on May 16th by President Erdogan’s bodyguards.
On June 6th, with a vote of 397 to 0, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously condemned Turkey in response to the attacks, taking a powerful stand against Ankara’s attempts to export its violence and intolerance to America’s shores. H.Res.354, spearheaded by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), Ranking Democrat Eliot Engel (D-NY), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), has received the public backing of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). The U.S. House is set to vote tomorrow on the National Defense Authorization Bill, a far-ranging measure that includes a provision, championed by Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman David Trott (R-MI), raising objections to a proposed U.S. sale of handguns for use by the very Erdogan security detail involved in the May 16th attack.
The vote followed broad-based Congressional outrage expressed by over 100 Senate and House members through public statements, social media, and a series of Congressional letters.
The May 16th protest in front of the Turkish Ambassador’s residence was a continuation of a demonstration held earlier in the day in front of the White House, co-hosted by the ANCA. As President Trump met with President Erdogan. human rights and religious rights groups were joined by representatives of the Kurdish, Yezidi and Armenian communities to call attention to the Erdogan regime’s escalating repression against free press, the Kurdish and other ethnic communities, as well as Turkey’s ongoing obstruction of justice for the Armenian Genocide.