Violence erupted at a Times Square hotel in New York City on Sept. 21 when protestors interrupted a speech by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (video below).
President Erdogan was in New York for the UN General Assembly that started on Sept. 19.
Video footage by Meghan Bodette shows one protestor shouting, "You're a terrorist, get out of my country," before several attendees punch and slap him as security drags him away. Bodette is one of six protesters who attended the speech, according to The New York Times.
Bodette said their goal was “to call attention to the Turkish state’s war crimes and human rights abuses against the Kurdish people,” in Turkey and Syria.
“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,” Bodette said in a Twitter message to The Times.
Halil Demir, a Turkish-American who works for a humanitarian organization, said he was standing near the back of the room when three protesters, a young man, a young woman and a middle aged man, stood up in rapid succession. The woman held a green banner, Demir said. Bodette identified the banner as the flag of the Women’s Protection Units, or YPJ, the female counterpart to the YPG, or the People's Protection Units.
Videos show one of the protesters wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a picture of Michael Israel -- an American from California who was killed in a December 2016 Turkish airstrike while volunteering with the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG -- being punched and slapped by several attendees as security personnel removed them from the room. Security also removed at least one person who had assaulted the protesters.
Israel was volunteering with the YPG away from what was considered the front line, according to Sherwan Darwish, spokesman for the SDF-aligned Manbij Military Council who spoke with the Los Angeles Times following the fatal airstrike.
President Erdogan sees the YPG as an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party, which has fought for Kurdish independence in Turkey for three decades. He has repeatedly said he will never accept a U.S. alliance with Kurdish forces fighting in Syria, reports BBC.
On May 16, violence erupted outside of the Turkish ambassadors' residence in the District of Columbia between protestors and bodyguards belonging to Erdogan's security detail. The bloody brawl left 9 injured and two in police custody, NBC News reports.
The U.S. summoned the Turkish ambassador over the incident, which D.C. police called a "brutal attack on peaceful protesters," according to the BBC. The Turkish embassy denied that assumption, saying the demonstrators had aggressively provoked Turkish-Americans gathering to greet President Erdogan, and that the bodyguards had responded in self-defense.