ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators who gathered Sunday for a gay pride rally in Istanbul despite a government ban.
Dozens of participants advocating transgender rights assembled off Istiklal Street, a major commercial artery, some brandishing rainbow flags.
Police called on them to disperse and prevented activists from marching or making statements. A couple of individuals were detained.
More than 300 policemen in anti-riot gear and backed by water cannons were deployed along the pedestrian thoroughfare and on side streets.
Istanbul’s governor had banned gay, lesbian and transgender individuals from holding two annual parades this year, both Sunday’s seventh Trans Pride March and a broader LGBT pride parade on June 26. His office cited security concerns as the basis for the ban.
In a statement that they were prevented from reading publicly, Trans Pride organizers said the community was “terrorized by both the state and puritanical groups.”
Turkish Islamist and ultra-nationalist groups had threatened counterdemonstrations to stop the parade from taking place but didn’t turn up Sunday.
Istanbul has witnessed a series of deadly bombings in the past year, including two suicide attacks targeting tourists – one on Istiklal Street.
On Friday, Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week organizers issued a declaration with a #LoveWillWin hashtag in Turkish rejecting security concerns as a reason to ban the parades.
It said “the governorship prefers to limit people’s rights and freedoms instead of taking measures to deal with the threats.”
Sunday’s organizers, in their statement, also paid tribute to the victims of a bloody rampage at a gay night club in Orlando that left 49 people dead.
“We bow with respect to the memory of our friends massacred in Orlando and promise a world without homophobia and transphobia,” their statement read.
The U.S. consulate in Istanbul this week unfurled the rainbow flag in celebration of gay pride and to honor the Orlando victims.