The Mancunion

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Students take to Manchester’s streets to ‘Reclaim the Night’

Demonstrators marched from Fallowfield to the University’s Oxford Road campus, chanting and waving banners

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Students took to the streets for the annual ‘Reclaim the Night’ march in Manchester to demonstrate against street harassment and sexual violence towards women.

A flood of women and men took to Wilmslow Road and marched from Owen’s Park, through the streets to the Students’ Union last Thursday evening. The march was led by a self-defining women’s only group, and was followed by a mixed group of demonstrators open to all genders.

Marchers carried signs which read: ‘no consent, no nothing’, and ‘whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes, no means no’.

The event, organised by the University of Manchester Students’ Union is an annual march which has taken place for 17 years at many Universities around the country, in frustration at the dangers felt by women when walking alone at night and the anger towards ‘victim-blaming’ in cases of reports of sexual offences.

In a 2010 report by the National Union of Students, it was revealed that more than a third of female students felt unsafe when walking alone at night, due to fears of harassment or attack.

Hayley Dallman, a first year at University of Manchester who attended the march also admitted to sometimes feeling unsafe at night, “I feel like I never want to leave my friends alone on a night out. That’s why I think the march is such a good thing”.

Between the months of September 2013-January 2014, the amount of reported sexual offences was a total of 26. The previous year the number of reported offences amounted to 14, an 86 per cent increase.

Greater Manchester Police have also explained that in January alone there were seven reports, and five were attributable to one perpetrator who has since been arrested.

University of Manchester Students’ Union Women’s Officer Tabz O’Brien-Butcher explained the importance of the annual march, “It is empowering for people who go on the march to be around other people who think that violence against women and street harassment isn’t okay. It is empowering for people to recognise that their frustrations and anger about the injustice is normal and other people do feel that way too.”

She also said, “If tonight has made a few people think this isn’t okay, and want to stand up and say we shouldn’t be treated like this then it has all been worth it.”

Reclaim the Night’s events continued in the Students’ Union until late, with a celebration of female talents. The party saw performances from groups such as Bhangra Society and Women Matta Choir, and a DJ set from Typical Girls, as well as live comedy, arts and crafts and community stalls.