Metro Weekly

Turkish police use rubber bullets, tear gas to break up Istanbul Gay Pride

Police broke up Istanbul Pride parade, detaining 19, because of security concerns

Istanbul Pride

Photo: Yarin Haber / Twitter

Police in Istanbul, Turkey, detained 19 people, firing tear gas and rubber bullets to break up a Gay Pride gathering in the capital city on Sunday.

Local authorities had previously banned the Pride Parade from taking place, citing security concerns. An ultra-nationalist youth group had promised violence if the march was allowed to go forward, reports Reuters.

About 200-300 young protesters turned out for the event. Police attempted to block streets and chase away revelers as they read aloud an official statement saying the Pride event was banned. In response, the demonstrators broke into smaller groups and took refuge inside buildings, with some hanging large rainbow flags from windows in protest.

Police at the scene told an Agence France Presse (AFP) photographer that only 12 people had been detained, including a freelance photographer from the United States, as they attempted to disperse the crowd. Among those briefly detained were two German politicians: Volker Beck, a Green member of the German Parliament and longtime LGBT rights activist, and Green Member of European Parliament Terry Reintke.

“We’re protesting spread-out, because the police are everywhere and blocking everything,” Gizem Seker, an event attendee, told AFP.

The Gay Pride event has been held annually in Istanbul since 2003, usually without incident. But last year, police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse participants after government officials banned it from taking place, citing the fact that it coincided with the holy month of Ramadan. Last week, police used tear gas and rubber bullets to stop revelers from holding a Trans Pride event in Istanbul, again citing the conflict with Ramadan as justification for the cancellation.

The decision to crack down on these types of marches or demonstrations has led critics to suggest that the Turkish government, currently led by the Islamist-centric AK (Justice and Development) Party, is attempting to undermine the country’s secular tradition. Other critics have charged that the socially conservative, right-wing AK Party has been largely unconcerned with the rights of minorities since taking power last November.

Organizers of the event attempted to read aloud their own statement before being forced out of the area by police. But they struck a defiant tone, blasting the government for imposing the ban.

“We will always exist, shout our existence, and always be proud of our existence,” they said. “They are right to be afraid of us because we are uniting, growing, and marching.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com