Members of LGBT community take part in a Gay Pride parade in central Istanbul, Turkey, July 1, 2018.
(photo credit: OSMAN ORSAL/REUTERS)
Turkish police violently clashed with the LGBT crowd on Sunday in Istanbul, using plastic bullets and tear gas to break up the marchers, according to international media reports.
Activists for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights were gathering in small groups for Pride events instead of the annual pride march which had been banned by the city's governor for the fourth consecutive year.
The march used to see tens of thousands of people parade down Istanbul's main Istiklal street, but Sunday's rally drew a much smaller crowd.
"For the fourth year in a row, Turkish authorities have banned Istanbul Pride. The last time (2014) it went ahead seems like a lifetime ago," one person tweeted.
Just a few hundred people gathered on one of Beyoglu district's side streets, waving rainbow flags and shouting slogans.
"100s of police throughout the Taksim area to stop the İstanbul Pride taking place but creative and courageous Pride participants sidestep the ban and read their press statement at a back street spontaneous protest," one of the marchers published on Twitter.
"Like every year, we are here, on these streets. Our laughter, our exclamations, our slogans still echo in these streets," organizers said in the statement read out during the rally.
"We miss the marches attended by thousands where we celebrate our visibility. We make fun of those who try to place boundaries on us by the pride of our existence and the strength of our pride."
Police dispersed the crowd following the statement but some people continued walking through the streets in smaller groups.
One participant in Sunday's Pride events took a picture while running away from the police. "Running from the police, round 1. Istanbul pride. (And yes, I took this while I was also running...)," he wrote.
Istanbul has traditionally been seen as a relatively safe haven by members of the gay community from elsewhere in the region, but although homosexuality is not a crime in Turkey, homophobia remains widespread.
Civil liberties in Turkey have become a particular concern for the West after a state of emergency was declared following the attempted military coup of July 2016.
Some 160,000 people were detained during the crackdown and nearly the same number of state employees dismissed, the United Nations said in March.
Aside from the pride marches in Istanbul and Ankara, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) movie showings have recently been banned, with the authorities citing security reasons and public sensitivities.Reuters contributed to this report.
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