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Gay pride parades sound a note of resistance _ and face some

Gay pride parades sound a note of resistance _ and face some”

Organizers behind Sunday's planned march in Taksim Square released a statement headlined: "We are Marching, Get Used to it".

It was the second year in a row that it had been banned, citing fears over the safety of marchers and tourists because of threats from right-wing ultra-nationalist groups.

At least a hundred protesters gathered in a nearby neighborhood, beating drums and chanting slogans such as, "Don't be quiet, shout out, gays exist!" and "Love, love, freedom, State, stay away!"

Riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters who defied the ban.

Last year, with the city on the edge after bombings blamed on Islamic State group and Kurdish militants, organisers were denied permission to march. "We're proud to march as a grand marshal alongside so many other courageous advocates fighting for the rights and dignity of our vibrant community".

An AFP journalist said small groups had begun gathering at Taksim Square but a heavy police presence outnumbered the activists. Critics say President Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted AK Party have shown little interest in expanding rights for minorities, gays and women, and are intolerant of dissent.

But uniformed police officers will be absent from the march this year, after parade organizer Pride Toronto barred police floats from participating earlier this year.

Pride organizers said in a statement Sunday that the threats themselves should be dealt with rather than limiting demonstrations.

"We are not alone, we are not wrong, we have not given up", the Pride Committee's statement said Sunday.

LGBT activists have long lobbied unsuccessfully to have sexual orientation and gender identity covered by Turkish laws protecting civil rights and prohibiting hate speech.

Homosexuality is not banned in Turkey but incidents of discrimination against gays have been reported.

And in Chicago, 23-year-old Sarah Hecker was attending her first pride parade, another event that attracted wall-to-wall crowds.

But in 2014, 2015 and 2016, the marches passed off without incident, after officials warned that violence would not be tolerated and after police maintained a high-profile presence, deploying armoured vehicles and a helicopter to prevent any attacks.

Until three years ago, Turkish authorities had regularly allowed Pride marches to take place.

The divide has disrupted some other pride events this month.

Sunday's scheduled march was on the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, marking the end of a month of fasting.



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