Turkish police stopped activists for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex rights from gathering in large numbers for an LGBT pride event in Istanbul, but smaller groups made impromptu press statements defying a ban imposed by the governor. Organisers of the 2017 Istanbul LGBT Pride had vowed to march in central Taksim Square, using a Turkish hashtag for “we march,” despite the ban on gay pride observances ordered by the Istanbul governor’s office for the third year in a row.
Police established checkpoints in the area, preventing groups from entering Istiklal Avenue and turning back individuals who were deemed to be associated with the planned march. Small groups assembled on side streets were chased away by officers. At least a hundred protesters gathered in a nearby neighbourhood, beating drums and chanting slogans such as, “Don’t be quiet, shout out, gays exist!” and “Love, love, freedom, State, stay away!” They carried a banner that read, “Get used to, we are here.”
Police used tear gas to disperse the crowds and activists said plastic bullets were also used. Riot-control vehicles and buses were dispatched to the area. Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency said “an estimated 20 people” were detained after protesters did not heed warnings to disperse because the march did not have a permit. Among those detained was Associated Press journalist Bram Janssen, who was covering the events. Footage from the scene showed officers grabbing him by the arms and escorting him to a van. He was released later yesterday.
Pride organisers said 41 people were detained, including 25 activists. Several activists were released late yesterday and lawyers expected others to be released after making statements to the police. In banning the event, the governor’s office on Saturday cited safety and public order. It also said a valid parade application had not been filed for yesterday’s event, a claim rejected by organisers.
The governor’s ban referred to “serious reactions by different segments of society” as several nationalist and religious groups called for the march’s cancellation.