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Police fire rubber bullets at crowd to stop Istanbul Pride parade

Local authorities have banned the parade for the third year in a row, but organisers said they’d march anyway.

Riot police detain a person as they attempt to disperse activists
Riot police detain a person as they attempt to disperse activists
Image: Emrah Gurel AP/Press Association Images

Updated 5.15pm

POLICE IN ISTANBUL fired rubber bullets to prevent Gay Pride activists from going ahead with a planned march that had been banned by authorities.

Rubber bullets were fired by police at a group of around 40 activists, an AFP journalist reported.

Small groups gathered at Taksim Square but witnesses said a heavy police presence outnumbered the activists, and at least four people were detained.

At Taksim Square, some nationalist groups opposed to the march shouted verbal attacks at LGBT activists who were singing in a show of protest, with one man telling a protester to “Shut up!”.

But they were taken away by the police.

“We represent the colours of the rainbow and will definitely defeat the darkness,” activist Deniz Tunc told AFP.

Bans, violence cannot intimidate us. We will continue to defend peace, equality and co-existence and that’s why we are on the streets.

“We stay”

Earlier, organisers of the Gay Pride parade in Istanbul vowed to press ahead with the event a day after officials in Turkey’s largest city banned it, citing safety and public order concerns.

Activists had called the parade for this afternoon at Istanbul’s Taksim Square, but the city governor’s office banned it after threats from far-right and conservative groups.

It is the third year in a row that the march has been banned.

Organisers denounced the decision and said the march would go ahead as planned.

“We are not scared, we are here, we will not change,” the Pride Committee said in a statement today. “You are scared, you will change and you will get used to it.

We are here again to show that we will fight in a determined fashion for our pride.

An AFP journalist said small groups had begun gathering at Taksim Square but a heavy police presence outnumbered the activists.

Several roads leading to Taksim had been closed.

‘Governors change, we stay’

In one of the biggest LGBT events in the mainly Muslim region, the 2014 Gay Pride parade in Istanbul drew tens of thousands of people.

Last year, with the city on the edge after bombings blamed on Islamic State group and Kurdish militants, organisers were denied permission to march.

Riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters who defied the ban.

Eleven activists went on trial in Istanbul this week for having defied last year’s ban on the Gay Pride march, but they were all acquitted.

This year, the parade coincides with the first day of a festival celebrating the end of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Critics accuse President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of having overseen a creeping Islamisation since he came to power, first as prime minister in 2003 and then president in 2014.

He has repeatedly infuriated activists with his conservative comments on sex and family planning, but has generally steered clear of commenting publicly on gay issues.

But in 2010, former family minister Aliye Kavaf, a woman, described homosexuality as a “biological disorder” and a “disease”.

Homosexuality has been legal in Turkey throughout the period of the modern republic but gay people in Turkey regularly complain of harassment and abuse.

“We are not alone, we are not wrong, we have not given up,” the Pride Committee’s statement said today.

“Governors, governments, states change and we stay. Threats, bans, pressures will not deter us … We will not give up on,” it added.

© AFP 2017

Read: Why is Pride in June? The Stonewall riot started the whole tradition… here’s how

Read: Pictures: The sun was shining as tens of thousands flocked to Dublin Pride today

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