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Istanbul police fire tear gas, disperse ‘banned’ Pride parade; 25 said arrested

Detained include photographer; Turkish authorities have blocked the march since 2015, citing security reasons

Protesters are detained by police in central Istanbul, June 26, 2021. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowds and detained dozens of LGBT activists as hundreds defied a ban and tried to stage a gay pride event. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
Protesters are detained by police in central Istanbul, June 26, 2021. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowds and detained dozens of LGBT activists as hundreds defied a ban and tried to stage a gay pride event. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Police in riot gear on Saturday blocked streets and fired tear gas to try to disperse marchers at a Pride parade in Istanbul.

Authorities have banned Istanbul Pride events since 2015, citing public security, and more recently, COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. The Cumhuriyet newspaper said at least 25 people were detained.

According to activists, security forces detained several of the protesters who had gathered in Taksim, a district that has traditionally hosted Pride marches.

Carrying rainbow flags and chanting slogans, the protesters had attempted to bypass the police blockade through the back streets, but were violently dispersed.

Footage from the march showed police storming the crowd and arresting participants.

“We aren’t hurting anyone,” one protester yelled at the police as he held hands with another man.

According to AFP, one of the news agency’s photographers covering the event was also briefly arrested during the parade.

After being released from the Istanbul police headquarters, Bulent Kilic said he had filed a “violent arrest” complaint against the police who pinned him to the ground and pushed their legs into his neck and back during the arrest.

AFP management protested against the “violent arrest” of Kilic “while he was only doing his job as a journalist.”

The Turkish branch of campaign group Reporters Without Borders also condemned his arrest.

Images showed Kilic being held on the ground by officers, who were pressing down on his body with their knees.

Police officers arrest AFP photographer Bulent Kilic while covering a Pride march in Istanbul that had been banned by authorities on June 26, 2021. (Haco Biskin / Gazete Duvar / AFP)

Kilic also said that his camera was damaged during the arrest.

After a spectacular Istanbul Pride parade in 2014 joined by more than 100,000 people, Turkish authorities have banned the march in recent years, officially for security reasons.

LGBTQ groups accuse the Turkish government of waging a “hate campaign” against them, encouraging violence against a vulnerable community.

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