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Istanbul pride ban
Screenshot via NBC news

Police violently disperse activists at banned Istanbul pride

Turkish authorities used tear gas, dogs and rubber bullets, detaining dozens of pride attendees after the event was banned for a third year

Istanbul pride had been banned for a third year in a row, but this didn’t stop LGBT activists defiantly holding protests and celebrations.

Turkish police descended on the day: according to the Guardian and local news reports, rubber bullets were fired at activists in the city, with tear gas and police dogs used. AFP reported that the large police presence outnumbered demonstrators, who gathered in small groups at locations such as the central Taksim Square, where four people were arrested.

The parade, which would have been Turkey’s fifteenth pride event, had been officially banned after the city governor cited concerns for safety and public order. Threats came from the ultra-nationalist Alperen Hearths group. Activists were quick to denounce this.

A statement from the Pride committee in Turkey said at the weekend: “We are not scared, we are here, we will not change. 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.”

Pride organisers told CNN that at least 44 people had been detained by police. Protestors took to the streets, chanting “Where are you my love? I am here!” Authorities blocked off entrances to the route with water cannons, and sprayed crowds with tear gas and rubber bullets. Demonstrators continued, making their way through smaller neighbourhoods, dancing and chanting.

LGBT activists have been vocal about intolerance and homophobia in Turkey, spreading widely under the Justice and Development Party, or AKP.

The last official parade back in 2014 saw thousands in attendance to celebrate the LGBT community. Similar violent measures were used to break up protests last year, after the parade was banned following security concerns with the Islamic state and Kurdish militant groups.

11 protestors who were arrested last year for taking part in the banned pride march went on trial last week and were subsequently acquitted.

Homosexuality has been legal in Turkey since 1923, but human rights of the LGBT community have been seriously marred over the years there. There isn’t any police or law in place to protect people from discrimination, and homophobic, hateful attacks have been widely ignored. Amnesty International previously drew attention to hateful rhetoric used by Turkish officials.

“We are not alone, we are not wrong, we have not given up,” the Pride Committee asserted in a statement this weekend. “Governors, governments, states change and we stay. Threats, bans, pressures will not deter us. We will not give up.”