Reclaim The Night March, London 2019
Thank you for being here on this cold, damp, winter evening.
Thank you for being here to Reclaim The Night!
Gatherings like this are as important and as urgent as they’ve ever been. Gatherings like this are the engine of the women’s movement, whilst the solidarity and warmth between us is our fuel.
And god knows we need that fuel on a night as cold as this… made colder still by the ice of misogyny and male violence that continues to plague women and girls from all walks of life up and down the country.
This march had its genesis in Leeds in 1977. It began as a protest against police telling women to stay inside to avoid getting raped or killed.
The devastating irony of this of course, is that women and girls are arguably in just as much peril within the home as we are outside…
No injustice has ever been rectified by demanding silence or compliance from victims.Yet in 2019, this pattern prevails.
No wrong has ever been put right by blaming victims of violence and deflecting responsibility from perpetrators.Yet in 2019, this pattern prevails.
There has of course been progress, but our struggle continues. Which is why we are here.
More than 40 years since the original Reclaim The Night march, you just have to look at how our society is organised and how it continues to function to see that there is still a tacit expectation that women will carry the burdens we’ve always carried, that we will accept the abuse of power that hurts us and our sisters day in, day out.
But that’s not what’s going to happen.
We will never accept accept that in the UK 2 women a week killed by their partner or ex-partner.
We will never accept that nearly 90,000 women are raped every single year.
We will never accept a culture and so-called ‘justice system’ that gives violent men impunity and tries to frame victims as complicit in the crimes committed against them.
We will take up space on these streets.
We will make our voices heard.
We will rebel and against the inequality and injustice that causes male violence against women and girls and allows it to thrive.
Inequality, injustice, violence… none of these things are inevitable.
As a minimum though…. change requires political will.
When it comes to male violence against women and girls our political leaders have a choice – it’s not a case of can they or can’t they do something about it, it’s a case of will they or won’t they…
…which is why this General Election the Women’s Equality Party has stood brilliant women who are not only phenomenal campaigners but also survivors of domestic abuse or sexual assault – our candidates have targeted MPs who have unresolved allegations of abuse or harassment on their record.
They have courageously told their stories. They have spoken truth to power. They have held the political establishment to account for closing ranks to protect powerful men. Since we started campaigning 4 out of the 5 MPs were targeted have announced that they will not now be standing. I can’t tell you how good it feels to win in 80% of the seats we’ve contested before a single vote has even been cast!
Like our candidates have done… we are gathered here tonight to take back power.
We are gathered here tonight to fight back, to say that these are our streets too… we are shareholders (majority shareholders in fact) in this city, in our communities, in this country as a whole.
We are gathered here tonight to demand the rights and freedoms that we have been denied and to support each other in claiming our birthright… which is to live without fear and free from the threat of violence.
We are gathered here today to say: nothing about us without us.
It’s cold, it’s damp, it’s dark, it’s winter… but we have sisterly solidarity – so let’s keep the fire burning to illuminate the culture of impunity, to thaw the ice of misogyny, but most importantly to keep each other warm while we Reclaim The Night and demand an end to violence.
Mandu Reid is Leader of the Women’s Equality Party: