By Katie Flack
Frustrated by ongoing sexual violence and street harassment, hundreds of protesters gathered in Brighton last Friday night to draw attention to gender-based crimes and demand safer streets.
Reclaim the Night, a national movement started in 1977 as a backlash against the lack of police response to the Yorkshire Ripper murders, has now come to encompass many more women-centric agendas and organisations.
Bella Bee, 22, from London, one of the speakers on behalf of the English Collection of Prostitutes (ECP) said: “This protest march is about women and non-binary people reclaiming space and being free from sexual harassment in general.
“I’m here to support the campaign and also promote safety for sex workers as part of the general march.
“Hopefully we’ll change some minds tonight.”
The route chosen was symbolic as Queens Road, West Street, parts of the sea front and Pavilion Gardens see some of the most violence in the city.
Miran Banda, a mother of four daughters from Brighton, said: “I want my daughters not to worry about what time they’re coming home or make sure there’s a whole gang of them in order to go home safely.
“I want it to be safe for everyone to walk home. That’s why I’m here.
“If I see something that’s wrong I have to fight against it.”
According to the Office of National Statistics, the number of sexual offences recorded by police has risen dramatically from 56,652 in 2003 to 121,187 in 2017 with rape accounting for 41,186 in 2017.
The amount of rapes alone in Brighton, more than 300 a year, have put a considerable strain on police.
Flora Deroumiam, 28, who travelled all the way from Cheltenham is a self-described passionate feminist.
She said: “The violence against women needs to stop. We want equal access to space and have felt pushed out by men for far too long.”
The charged atmosphere full of witty banners and clever slogans like, ‘Hey mister get your hands off my sister!’ drew quizzical and slightly bemused looks from passers-by.
Some motorists honked their horns in solidarity and a few women even came out of restaurants and shops to dance in the streets.
The march culminated at the Old Stein where the group listened to impassioned speeches from Sister’s Uncut, the Survivors’ Network and the ECP.
Sarah Tigre-Ford, a trustee at the Survivors’ Network, said: “Thank you for fighting and I know – we know – that when we come together we can change the course of history.”
Miss Bee, ECP spokesperson, said: “Here in the UK we are facing a crisis.
“Thousands of women are caught up in arrests and raids.
“We get no protection from the raids and violence. Prostitution laws send a negative message to violent men that our lives do not matter.”
The Brighton Antifascist Movement (BAM) said far right groups, such as the DFLA, were attempting to “racialize” issues such as rape, saying that migrants were solely to blame.
Polly Bentham, spokesperson for BAM said: “They don’t care about women’s struggles – they just want to push their own narrative. It’s time we reclaim the narrative.”
The after event was held at the Green Door Store and organised by Fem Rock. All fundraising proceeds went to the local Rape Crisis Centre, Survivors’ Network.