Attendees of Istanbul’s gay pride parade were assaulted with rubber bullets, tear gas, and a water cannon. According to witness reports, Turkish police officials used the weapons to disperse participants and spectators — without prior warning.
Istanbul’s gay pride parade has taken place for the last 12 years without incident. Although attendees are protesting government policies and violence against the LGBT community, the events are generally peaceful and have never met with official resistance.
— VICE News (@vicenews) June 28, 2015
Attendees were specifically confused by the assault, as a transgender support parade occurred on June 21, in the same location, without police interference.
— CBC News (@CBCNews) June 28, 2015
As reported by Huffington Post, tens of thousands were gathered at Taksim Square for Sunday’s festival and parade. Journalist Sophia Jones, who witnessed the assault, describes the scene.
“Turkish riot police aimed a water cannon into a crowd of people… sending them running for safety as water pounded them from behind. Belongings flew off with the force of the water as people struggled to stay on their feet.”
Although many attendees were confused, Istanbul Pride Week Committee member Ozge Gozke admitted the organization was denied a permit for the festival and parade.
According to Gozke, officials were concerned, as the festivities were scheduled during the month of Ramadan — which is sacred in the Muslim faith.
Despite the fact that they were refused a permit, the Istanbul Pride Week Committee was unwilling to cancel or reschedule the festival and parade.
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) June 28, 2015
Although the lack of permit may have contributed to the police response, there are several other theories.
Agence France-Presse reports attendees were “shouting slogans accusing… President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of facism” moments before the assault occurred.
— AJE News (@AJENews) June 28, 2015
Ozge Gozke said she believes the festivities were targeted as the organization is “more visible this year and [their] project is political.”
Although the police used rubber bullets, tear gas, and a water cannon against the attendees, nobody was seriously injured.
CBC reports several hundred participants and spectators “regrouped a few blocks down the street and continued to dance and chant slogans.” They were later joined by “several thousand” others. However, there were no further reports of police interference.
Authorities in Istanbul have not discussed the gay pride parade, or their attempt to disperse the attendees. However, participants and spectators have shared photos and video footage of the incident through social media.
[Image via Burak Kara/Getty Images]