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Reclaim the Night 2016: Violence Against Women Protest at Forest Rec

11 November 16 words: Lucy Manning

Women of Nottingham, it's time to banner up...

Between 1975 and 1980, Peter Sutcliffe – also known as the Yorkshire Ripper – seriously attacked ten women, and sexually attacked and murdered thirteen women. The majority of these women were prostitutes from in and around the Leeds area, some were students, one a building society clerk, and one a doctor. Two of these women were just sixteen years of age. One, Tracey Browne, was fourteen.

In response to these murders and attacks, the police urged women not to go out at night. Women had inadvertently been placed under curfew – not particularly helpful for those women who work late or night shifts, or indeed, women involved in prostitution. This response seemed to place blame on the victims of Sutcliffe’s attacks for being alone in the dark.

In protest at the horrific level of violence being perpetrated against women and implications of victim-blaming, the Leeds Revolutionary Feminist Group took inspiration from their German sisters and called for women up and down the country to march through their cities on 12 November 1977. Women from Leeds, Bristol, York, Manchester, London and Brighton took part in the first Reclaim the Night march, protesting against rape, violence against women and girls, and a woman’s right to walk without fear at night.

Now in its 39
th year, Reclaim the Night has evolved to focus more generally on the continued issue of male violence against women. The women-only marches are filled with placards emblazoned with phrases such as ‘My Body, My Choice’ and ‘Harassment is NOT a Compliment’, and chants including “Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no” can be heard as clear as day.

Women, this weekend marks your time to join in with Nottingham’s Reclaim the Night march. Fashion yourselves a banner complete with a cleverly worded slogan, wrap up as warm as possible, and head up to Forest Recreation Ground from 6.30pm.

All women are welcome, be you old, young, heterosexual, lesbian, bisexual, trans, non-binary, gender non-conforming, from round these parts or from further afield, no matter your creed, colour or culture, and the entire route is wheelchair accessible. If you’ve experienced misogynistic oppression, you’re welcome to get involved.

Beginning up at Forest Rec, you’ll gather with your fellow comrades and have a practice of some of the chants you’ll be singing on your way down. Once you’re suitably down with the tunes, the march will begin to process through the Forest Rec and down Mansfield Road, before culminating in Market Square for the Reclaim Rally. This will serve to celebrate and support women’s self-organised action against violence, and women speakers will take to the Council House steps to impart their pearls of wisdom.

Once you’ve absorbed said pearls, get yourselves over to the Women’s Centre to get right cosy, have a cuppa and a biscuit, and get to know the other women on the march.

Chloe Cheeseman, Campaigns and Marketing Officer at charity, Equation, says “We know that women and girls experience abuse, harassment and unwanted attention from men on a daily basis while out in public. These threats make women feel unsafe and change the way we live our lives – such as avoiding public transport or not going out after dark. We are reclaiming our right to be free from these daily abuses and ask the community to join us to demand a better society for our girls and women.”

Men aren’t welcome on the march, for obvious reasons. But there will be a solidarity vigil organised by supportive men outside the St Peter’s Square Church from 7pm, so if you want to demonstrate your support for the women in our city make yourselves known round there. Men are welcome to watch the Reclaim Rally in Market Square, but organisers of the event ask that you maintain a respectful distance at the back.

Reclaim the Night Nottingham, Saturday 12 November, 6.30pm, Forest Recreation Ground, women-only.

Reclaim the Night is supported by Rape Crisis Nottingham, Nottingham Women’s Centre, Nottingham Community Housing Association, Equation, Women’s Aid Integrated Services, POW Nottingham and Nottingham Central Women’s Aid.

Reclaim the Night Nottingham on Facebook

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