Turkey uses tear gas to break up gay pride gathering

A participant in the LGBT Pride event reacts as others flee after Turkish police use a water canon to disperse them in Istanbul, Turkey, Sunday, June 28, 2015.

A participant in the LGBT Pride event reacts as others flee after Turkish police use a water canon to disperse them in Istanbul, Turkey, Sunday, June 28, 2015. Emrah Gurel, AP

ISTANBUL (AP) — Police in Istanbul used tear gas and detained activists who gathered Sunday to issue a statement to mark gay pride week after authorities banned their rally in the city. At least 19 activists were rounded up, organizers said.

Dozens of activists assembled on Istanbul’s main pedestrian street to publicly read a statement marking the end of the gay, lesbian and transgender pride week and to denounce the ban. Several of them were detained however, before they could speak. Turkish police later used tear gas and rubber pellets to chase activists from side streets.

Istanbul’s governor banned both last week’s Trans Pride March and Sunday’s broader LGBT pride parade, citing security concerns in the city, which has been hit by deadly attacks by Islamic State militants or Kurdish rebels.

Turkish Islamist and ultra-nationalist groups had also threatened counter-demonstrations to stop the gay rights rallies.

Activists believe authorities are using security as an excuse to ban the gay parades. They say the government they should be taking measures to deal with the threats instead.

Two European legislators were also briefly detained Sunday, activists said. They included prominent Green Party lawmaker Volker Beck — an outspoken activist for gay rights — who was detained when he wanted to speak at the event in Istanbul.

The German news agency dpa quoted Beck as saying: “The police tore away my passport and pushed me around.”

Last week, Turkish police also used tear gas and rubber bullets to break up demonstrators who gathered for the transgender parade in defiance of the ban.

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