Turkish police attacked Istanbul Pride marchers after members of the LGBTQ community ignored a ban issued by the government.
It was the fourth consecutive year that Pride had been banned in the city, authorities citing safety concerns as cause for keeping the parade from happening. Around 1,000 people demonstrated at Istiklal Avenue and Taksim Square, waving flags and celebrating until police descended, driving the crowd away with rubber bullets and tear gas.
“The governor cited the excuse of security in its decision to ban the march and in one word, this is comical. Our marches went on peacefully without being banned for 13 years,” organizers said in a statement, The Telegraph reports.
“People are not afraid, shopkeepers are not afraid. However, the governorship is afraid, the police are afraid. They think that they can restrain freedom with the barricades they set up and the tear gas,” an activist at the march said.
Homosexuality is legal in the country, but few protections are available to the community and discrimination and harassment are common occurrence.
“We have no visibility in any space – in the workplace, many LGBTIQ people have to cover their gender or their sexual orientation,” Meriç Aytekin, an activist from the Pride Committee, told The Daily Beast. “Or in the education system, they have to cover themselves. And this [Pride] is the only one intensive place to come out, to show yourself, what you are, what you like, and what you love, you know? And the visibility helps us change the political system, to change the law.”