Students’ Union (SU) Liberation and Access Officer Sara Khan has described the lack of inclusion of trans people at this year’s Reclaim The Night march as concerning.
In an exclusive statement obtained by The Mancunion, Khan said that she had seen many “cis-normative” signs around the SU, and also expressed concern that the LGBT+ bloc was not an official part of this year’s march, citing them as some of the groups most vulnerable to street harassment.
Khan also took issue with Reclaim The Night’s call to increase police presence in student areas, saying that “the police as an institution systematically abuses women of colour and trans women on the daily.’’
Khan also remarked that the police themselves were responsible for many incidents relating to sexual assault: “The reason I feel this way is that, firstly, a significant portion of sexual assaults both reported and unreported come from police officers themselves.”
She argued that a range of measures were needed to prevent Greater Manchester Police form further aggravating street harassment and violence, including political education, awareness training, and institutional reform of the organisation.
Despite raising issues with the inclusivity of the event, Khan said that constructive dialogue was needed to improve the platform: “Nothing is as inclusive as it could be, and we should always strive to seek out and take on constructive criticism, and to do better.”
Khan further outlined steps that could be taken to improve the effectiveness and outreach of the event: “Especially in the context of TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist) organising on the rise, we need to build an intersectional understanding of what a campaign for “safer streets” should be about.
“We need to platform the voices of trans people, and provide political education about cis-normative violence and police violence.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for the SU Executive Officers said: “We completely acknowledge the concerns raised by the Liberation and Access Officer. However we would like to emphasise that the opportunities to be involved with the planning, organisation and execution of Reclaim the Night have been open to all students and officers for many months.
“The concerns raised have not been voiced before today. If any concerns had been raised at the various stages of consultation and planning by any elected representative or student, we would have taken the necessary measures to ensure that their concerns were addressed in the right way.
“The SU Executive Officer team would also like to express that no concerns were raised during the executive team meetings when discussions about Reclaim the Night were brought up. The Exec team are surprised about the claims and concerns raised just before the march but are determined to address the concerns the best we can do with the time that we have, and then will look to further improve future events.
“We would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to all of the 20+ student volunteers for all their time and efforts, and would also like to clarify our stance that none of our volunteers are paid.”