ROME — Police in riot gear on Saturday blocked streets to try to thwart gay Pride marchers in Istanbul, while thousands turned out joyfully in Paris and elsewhere in Europe after pandemic privations — although setbacks against LGBT rights tempered some of the celebratory air.
Authorities have banned Istanbul Pride events since 2015, citing public security, and more recently, COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. The Cumhuriyet newspaper said at least 25 people were detained.
Pandemic concerns forced cancellations of Pride events in Lisbon and postponement of London’s usually heavily attended march.
In Berlin, demonstrators set off on three routes toward the central Alexanderplatz in a format meant both to avoid bigger gatherings during the pandemic and to reflect the diversity of the LGBT community.
In Italy, Pride celebrants rallied in Rome and Milan.
With a proposed law to combat hate crimes against LGBTQ people stalled in the Italian Senate for months, the Vatican and right-wing political leaders have been lobbying to eliminate some of the provisions, citing fears the legislation will crimp freedom of expression.
A new Hungarian law prohibits sharing content on homosexuality or sex reassignment to people under 18 in school sex education programs, films or advertisements. The European Union nation’s government says the law aims to protect children and insists it doesn’t target gays. Critic says the law links homosexuality with pedophilia.
Camille Fois, 25, traveled to Paris from the Alpine city of Annency to take part in her first Pride march. Speaking about the Hungarian law, she expressed concerns shared by many rights advocates in the European Union.
“It can happen to us very quick. It’s not as far away as that,” she ventured.
The overarching mood among tens of thousands of participants at the Paris event was of celebration after nearly a year-and-a half of pandemic-triggered restrictions on gatherings and socializing.
Singing along to ”I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry, people danced in one of the Metro trains that carried them to the rallying point. With half of French adults now having had at least one vaccine jab, many no longer felt the need for face masks and partied with abandon.
“Being locked away was hard,” said Georges Gregoire, 33, who came with his partner. “I wanted to have fun.” The two traveled from Lille. Gregoire, a nursing student, moved to France from Haiti, where, he said, he was so miserable and ostracized as a gay man that he contemplated suicide.
Salv, who didn’t want to give his full name because he doesn’t want it widely known that he is HIV-positive, marched with a placard that read: “40 years of waiting for a vaccine.” He said he is optimistic that research poured into coronavirus vaccines will boost prospects for a vaccine against HIV.
Many participants in Paris expressed alarm about rollback of rights in Hungary and Poland, two EU nations led by right-wing governments.
“If European leaders tolerate this, what’s to stop them from tolerating that at home? said Mornia Paumelle—Pichon, a 26-year—old illustrator.
John Leicester reported from Paris. AP reporters Andrew Wilk in Istanbul and Geir Moulsen in Berlin contributed to this report.