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Turkish Riot Police Block Gay Pride March in Istanbul

Turkish police officers fire tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators who gathered for a gay pride rally despite a government ban, off Istiklal Avenue, central Istanbul's main shopping road, Sunday, June 19, 2016.

Turkish riot police fired tear gas Sunday in Istanbul to break up a gay pride demonstration that activists had attempted to hold in defiance of a government ban.

Hundreds of police surrounded demonstrators who had gathered on a main artery, Istiklal Street, in the upscale central city waving the LGBT community's rainbow flags.

Several arrests were reported after protesters refused police orders to disperse,

The Istanbul Pride event has taken place every year since 2003. But Istanbul's governor on Friday banned the march to protect what authorities called "security and public order."

Organizers denounced the ban, calling it a "flagrant violation" of their rights to assemble.

Ahead of Sunday's confrontation, security had already been tight in the city, after a spate of recent bombings either claimed by Islamic State extremists or blamed by the government on Kurdish militants seeking autonomy in Turkey's southeast.

One of those blasts -- a suicide bombing that killed five people in March -- also occurred on Istiklal Street near the site of Sunday's faceoff.