Police set up checkpoints in the area surrounding the square ahead of the march and blocked the nearby streets in an attempt to prevent it from taking place, AP reports. The police officers also barred people from entering Istiklal Avenue and turned back all those thought to be linked to the banned event.
#BREAKING Turkey police fire rubber bullets to break up Istanbul Gay Pride march: AFP
According to Turkey’s Hurriyet daily, police were conducting ID checks and searches.
In the meantime, around a hundred protesters gathered in the neighboring Cihangir district beating drums and chanting slogans such as, “Don’t be quiet, shout out, gays exist!”
At least ten people were arrested after a scuffle broke out between a group of activists opposing the march and LGBT demonstrators. Police had to intervene and seven people protesting the event and three LGBT activists were detained, Hurriyet reports.
At the same time, some activists said on social media that the police had used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the demonstrators and began to “aggressively arrest” the LGBT activists.
On June 24, the Istanbul Governor’s Office banned the march, citing security concerns. It was the third year in a row that the event has been banned.
Earlier, a right-wing youth organization called the Alperen Hearths, which is linked to the religious nationalist Great Union Party (BBP), had threatened to forcibly prevent the march from taking place, according to Hurriyet.
The LGBT organizers denounced the ban, while vowing to go ahead with the march as planned.
“We are not scared, we are here, we will not change,” the Pride Committee said in a statement on Sunday, as reported by AFP. “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,” the organizers added.
Last year, LGBT activists also tried to hold a march in defiance of an official ban, which Turkish police also used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse. Between 15 and 19 people were detained at that time, according to various estimates.
Homosexuality is not a crime in Turkey, as it is some other Muslim countries, and gay parades had been regularly held there every year from 2003 until the recent bans. Homophobia is still widespread, however.
This year, the date for the march coincided with the Islamic holiday of Eid, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, inviting even more controversy in the Muslim country.