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Police Use Water Cannons, Rubber Bullets, and Tear Gas to Break Up Istanbul Pride

 

As Americans across the country celebrated the hard-won right to marriage, established in a landmark Supreme Court ruling on Friday, and the 46th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, Istanbul's LGBT population bore witness to the lengths we still have to travel as an international community. What should have been the city's 13th annual Pride parade was forcibly shut down before it began, with police using water cannons, rubber bullets, and tear gas to dispel the peaceful demonstration.  

  While homosexuality is technically illegal in Turkey, the LGBT scene is one of the most vibrant in the Middle East. Istanbul Pride regularly attracts upwards of 100,000 participants, and is second only in Asia to Tel Aviv. The most recent elections, which saw President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's ruling party lose its majority, saw record numbers of pro-LGBT political candidates elected into office. Yet, despite outward hints of progress, Pride officials said that the government had, without warning, denied the parade their usual license, citing the holy month of Ramadan as the reason. A trans pride parade occured last week without incident, so people gathered for the parade anyway. Vice News reports that it was as crowds began to make their way to Taksim Square, a popular site for protest in the nation's largest city, that police began to use force.  Gillian Mohney and John Beck of Vice News note that participants responded with bravery and determination:

"After water cannons stopped protesters from marching in one direction, they turned around and continued to march down the street away from police. Many demonstrators made their way to nearby Cihangir, where they gathered in a semi-party atmosphere with dance music, cheers, and whistles mingling with occasional wafts of tear gas as police chased people down side streets in the area. Others gathered at Tunel, where the pride march usually finishes, but were also dispersed by police."

"Later, armored riot police and backed by vehicles with water cannons charged repeatedly at small groups of jeering protestors on central Istiklal street — the planned march route — firing both tear gas and a water cannon with a stream laced with pepper spray. Both pride marchers and bystanders — including many tourists — scattered, holding flags and anything else they had handy over their mouths in an attempt to counteract the effects of the gas." 

Held on the heels of America's historic move in favor of LGBT rights, U.S. Consul General Charles Hunter attended the parade in solidarity with Turkey's community. The horrifying scenes serve as a stark reminder of the battle that remains beyond marriage equality. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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