‘No excuse for violent men’: Anger and unity at Reclaim the Night march

‘We shouldn’t have to feel scared walking around at 5pm when it’s dark’

Bristol Uni students were out in force to march for safer streets and an end to gender-based violence at the Reclaim the Night march on Thursday 24th November.

The march, organised by the Bristol SU in conjunction with the Bristol Intersectional Feminist Society and the Women’s Network, is part of its annual campaign against sexual harassment and gender-based violence.

Students and other members of the local community gathered at 6pm to listen to an inspiring speech from SU Equality Officer Saranya on the importance of the march. Protesters then set off at 6:30pm and marched from Queen’s Square up Park Street, through the triangle towards the Richmond Building.

Thursday’s march, the first one to have taken place since 2019, was headed by an SU banner stating “Reclaim the Night” with protesters carrying colourful lights and placards reading “Let women walk home without fear”, “Take back the night” and “Text me when you get back”. Throughout the march SU marshals in pink high-vis jackets lined the route to ensure the safety of all those taking part.

The SU’s Equality, Liberation and Access Officer Saranya Thambirajah told Bristol Tab: “I really wanted to bring back the Reclaim the Night March this year, as it’s not happened in three years because of the pandemic.

“It’s a really important national movement fighting for women’s safety at night and against gendered oppression, sexual violence of any sort.”

The march demanded that all women, non-binary people and other marginalised genders are able to use public spaces at night time without fearing for their safety and marked the United Nation’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women which falls on November 25th.

Jess, a second-year student who attended the march, told Bristol Tab: “I’ve decided to come out tonight because I think it’s a really important cause and I’m sick of trying to plan nights out and making sure that I have a boy or someone to walk home with that’s not another girl and feeling nervous when my female friends have gone out and I don’t know when they’re getting back.

“It’s just so much pressure to put on people, especially when they’ve got such important things to think about like University and the constant fear of anyone like yourself or your friends going out by themselves is too much.”

Participants Izzy and Anna also told the Bristol Tab why they had chosen to attend the march: “I think it’s really freeing to be able to just walk around in the dark and not be worried and looking over your shoulder and it’s quite nice to be able to walk the streets with a group of women all on the same page.

“I think it’s quite empowering. Just being even just around a whole group of people caring about the same thing.”

The Reclaim the Night movement started in 1977 in Leeds with the first marches being in part a response to the police instruction that women should stay away from public spaces after dark following the “Yorkshire Ripper” murders. The marches spread to other cities including Bristol.

The marches continue to this day with dangers to women walking alone at night being highlighted by the murders of Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa and others.

Following the march, participants gathered in the Balloon Bar at the SU to listen to powerful speeches from representatives of the Bristol Feminist Collective, Bristol Sex Workers Collective and Bristol Intersectional Feminist Society.

There was a feeling of community at the march with all participants united not just in anger at the continued oppression of women but also in their hope for safer streets in the future.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Breaking: Bristol Uni lecturers will strike this November

Bristol University to ask students their suggestions for renaming buildings linked to slave trade

Bristol Uni ‘only have themselves to blame’: UCU strikes begin despite downpours