Hannah Wakefield tells us all about the Reclaim the Night march that took place on Saturday evening.
From 6.30pm people began to gather around Queen’s Square. It was already extremely dark but the atmosphere was buzzing. The range of people there surprised me; although young women, many of whom were students, had the biggest presence, some men and older people attended too, and it was great to see the student bubble being burst, even to just a small extent, as street harassment and sexual assault are obviously not unique to women in their early twenties. Amongst the people chatting were an abundance of posters, lights, speakers, and people handing out badges. I had never been on a march or protest before so I did not know what to expect, but I was absolutely amazed.
As the march began I was a little nervous. However, as my friend and I approached the bottom of Park Street I had been completely absorbed by the whole experience: the posters, the chanting, the cheering, and we were chanting along “no means no” and “whose streets? Our streets!” with the utmost enthusiasm and volume. The whole procession had the feeling of a tight-knit community, and despite knowing hardly anyone there it felt like being amongst close friends. We marched up Park Street, whilst shouting at the top of our lungs, but I hardly felt the hill at all (which is saying something as I usually struggle to both walk and talk while climbing it). It also stood in stark contrast to few times I have walked back up Park Street alone after a night out, especially the time once I ran part of the way as I was panicked by the feeling that some guys were following me.
One of the best things about the whole march was the response of people who had just been going about their business when the march passed them, even those who had clearly been held up by the procession. The support was overwhelming. Some people spontaneously joined the procession, and many expressed their support for the cause in other ways. People who lived in houses and flats along the route cheered out of their windows, and one man even waved a potted-plant in each hand at us! Cars honked as we passed them, mostly in strong support.
The march ended at the SU, where an after-event was held in the Anson Rooms. Here there was live music and speeches, and information stalls with leaflets and advice on issues such as sexual harassment, sexual assault, and consent, to name just a few. Along one of the walls there were photos of the other Reclaim events that had happened earlier in November. One was a life drawing session for Reclaim our Bodies which my friend and I had attended; there was a selection of the drawings that were made at the session on the wall, and they were absolutely amazing. As the protesters piled into the room they laid their signs under the photos and drawings, creating a vibrant display.
All in all, the experience was incredible and I could not recommend it highly enough. The cause is so important for all women, and everyone can do something to help. The march itself was fantastic and left me feeling both empowered and hopeful for the future.
Photographs by Rivka Cocker.
To find out more about the events that took place as part of Reclaim, click here.