Istanbul riot police break up LGBT rally

People cover their face with t-shirts as Turkish anti-riot police officers fire rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators gathered for a rally staged by the LGBT community on Istiklal avenue in Istanbul on June 19, 2016.
People cover their face with t-shirts as Turkish anti-riot police officers fire rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators gathered for a rally staged by the LGBT community on Istiklal avenue in Istanbul on June 19, 2016.PHOTO: AFP
People cover their face with t-shirts as Turkish anti-riot police officers fire rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators gathered for a rally staged by the LGBT community on Istiklal avenue in Istanbul on June 19, 2016.
People cover their face with t-shirts as Turkish anti-riot police officers fire rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators gathered for a rally staged by the LGBT community on Istiklal avenue in Istanbul on June 19, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

ISTANBUL (AFP) - Turkish riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to break up a rally staged by the LGBT community in Istanbul on Sunday (June 19) in defiance of a ban.

Several hundred police surrounded the main Taksim Square - where all demonstrations have been banned since 2013 - to prevent the "Trans Pride" event taking place during Ramadan.

It was the latest crackdown by police in Turkey against an event during the Muslim holy month.

As the police swooped in on the LGBT rally of about 150 people, the crowd fled into nearby streets, but Turkish media reported that at least two people were detained.

The "Trans Pride" rally was to kick off LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) week in Turkey.

But the Istanbul authorities said on Friday they had banned the annual gay pride parade set for June 26 to "safeguard security and public order".

"We want to march for humanity but the police ban everything," LGBT community member Ebru told AFP.

Earlier Sunday, 11 anti-gay protesters, apparently Islamists, demonstrating near Taksim Square were arrested, according to the Dogan news agency.

"We are Ottomans," shouted one, according to video of the incident. "We don't want any of those people here."

A group of ultra-nationalists asked the authorities last week to cancel the gay pride parade, saying it would make sure it did not take place if police did not heed the call.

The annual Istanbul parade has taken place for the last 12 years without incident with thousands of people taking part, to become the most important LGBT gathering in a Muslim country in the region.

On Saturday, police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon on people protesting after Islamists attacked fans of British rock group Radiohead for attending an album launch during Ramadan.

A group of about 20 men beat up customers and staff at the Velvet IndieGround music store on Friday night, angry that they were drinking alcohol at the event.

On Saturday, about 500 protesters took to the streets in Istanbul shouting "Shoulder to shoulder against fascism!" and denouncing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a "thief" and a "killer".

Turkish authorities have regularly cracked down on anti-government demonstrations since mass protests swept the country in 2013, using tear gas and water cannon against even small gatherings.