Manchester students united to recapture tonight (March 22) in an intersectional and empowering protest. Protesters marched down Oxford Road, starting at Owen’s Park in Fallowfield and culminating in Students’ Union. At the SU, a meeting was held with strong speeches that drew attention not only to women’s safety, but also street safety in other marginalized communities and sex workers – for whom the march and the surrounding events raised money.
The crowd stretched as far as the eye could see as the ‘woman + block’ (including female and non-binary students) led the group down Oxford Road. People leaned out of the car and bedroom windows to cheer, not laugh, and beeped their horns for support instead of calling. There was a sense of community and excitement as hoarse voices led to singing like “Whose streets? Our streets,” and young girls joined in singing “Tell me what a feminist looks like? What a feminist looks like!”
The speeches after the march were led by Jas Taylor, SU’s women officer, Serena Jemmett, and Syd King (PTOs) along with Jess Hyer from Support for student sex workers. They all drew attention to both female and marginalized societal experiences of sexual harassment and street safety as well as the lack of legal and state support for sex workers and victims of sexual assault.
“It’s the 45th anniversary since the first Reclaim the Night. 45 years, and what’s changed? Are women safe to walk in the dark? No,” cried Serena. “We still live in fear of simple things like existing outside ours. four walls after sunset “said Jas, who was greeted by shouts from the crowd highlighting the depressing universality of their experiences.
“We do what they say … but it does not matter. We are still dying.”
“We do what they say, we do not use headphones, we call friends, we carry keys, we send text messages when we are at home – but it does not matter. We are still dying.” Syd’s speech drew attention to the dangers facing the trans community through shocking statistics, including: “As a queer, trans, disabled person who has experience with sex work, I am more likely to experience sexual assault and violent crimes than to own a House. “
They argued that the ‘feminist’ movement is not always inclusive enough, “society is finding out that there is a terrible and societal threat to women’s security, but the struggle for minorities does not have the same support.”
The intersectionality and spaciousness of the speakers was integrated throughout the march that Jas had said it would be beforewith different blocks based on gender identification, a wheelchair-friendly route and signatories during the speeches, to name a few.
This year’s Reclaim the Night was to support student sex workers, as Jas said “sex worker problems are feminist problems.” Jess from Support for Student Sex Workers spoke at the meeting, and the funds raised from donations and merchandise sales should support their charity and National Ugly Mugs.
“So men, it’s up to you to stand up and be an ally. It’s time.”
Jas also urged all students to tweet Andy Burnham and the GMCA, urging them to sever ties with organizations that put sex workers at risk, such as White Ribbon and Nordic Model Now. These organizations are currently trying to recall University of Leicesters ‘Student Sex Work Toolkit’.
The last call for action from the speakers was for ‘allied ship’. In response to the previous cries of “Say it once, say it again, no apology for violent men”, Serena spoke directly to the male participants: “So men, it is up to you, you must stand up and you must be an ally. It’s time. “
If you have been affected by any of the issues discussed in this article or during the march, you can find all the guides and support links here.
You can also donate to National Ugly Mugs and Support for Student Sex Workers.