Turkey arrests at least 15 protesters at Pride rally

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish police detained at least 15 protesters in Istanbul on Sunday for participating at a banned LGBT Pride rally, after searching the streets having arrived at the scene after participants had dispersed, a Reuters witness said.

Police declined to comment.

The Istanbul Governor's Office said earlier on Sunday that the Pride March would not be permitted. Turkish police blocked central Istanbul to prevent the march from taking place, shutting down metro stations and blocking traffic on the main streets.

President Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-rooted AK Party has toughened its rhetoric against the LGBT community over the past decade and banned pride marches since 2015, citing “security reasons”.

The Istanbul Governor's Office labelled the organizations calling for the Pride March as illegal.

Following the ban, LGBT groups gathered in another part of Istanbul on the Asian side, with a representative reading a statement that said: "We never get tired of deceiving the police and forcing them to deal with us."

"You have closed all the streets and squares, you have stopped the life of a whole city, but you have forgotten that we will pierce the stone and find each other if necessary."

Police officers searched the streets for protesters and detained at least 15 people, the Reuters witness said.

(Reporting by Dilara Senkaya, Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)