Protesters delay motorists as Reclaim the Night march takes over Bristol streets

protesters delay motorists as reclaim the night march takes over bristol streets - Protesters delay motorists as Reclaim the Night march takes over Bristol streets

Protesters held up traffic in Bristol this evening (Sunday, November 24) as they campaigned against gender inequality and violence.

More than 100 residents took part in the Reclaim the Night march, organised by Bristol University Student Union and the union’s Women’s Network.

As they proceeded through the city they waved placards and uttered chants including: ‘Whatever we wear, Wherever we go, Yes means ‘yes’, No means ‘no’.’

Addressing the crowd, Women’s Network chairwoman Syirah Ami, 21, said: “Misogyny and rape culture is still very much alive.”

She added: “I’d rather worry about my degree and my social life than be thinking, ‘Am I going to get home safe tonight’?”

protesters delay motorists as reclaim the night march takes over bristol streets 2 - Protesters delay motorists as Reclaim the Night march takes over Bristol streets

Women’s Network chairwoman Syirah Ami, who organised the Reclaim the Night march

Most campaigners assembled at Queen Square before setting off at 5.30pm.

They travelled along Marsh Street, St Augustine’s Parade, College Green and Park Street before stopping for speeches at the Victoria Rooms on Queens Road. They then finished up at the Student Union’s Richmond Building.

Ms Ami explained to Bristol Live why she felt it was important to organise the march again this year, following in the footsteps of her predecessors as chairwoman of the Women’s Network.

She said: “This march has always been about combating misogyny and gender violence. It’s continuing year on year.

“The statistics are not getting any better – and from a student standpoint it’s actually getting worse.”

protesters delay motorists as reclaim the night march takes over bristol streets 3 - Protesters delay motorists as Reclaim the Night march takes over Bristol streets

Campaigners walk through Bristol for the Reclaim the Night march on Sunday, November 24, 2019 (Image: Michael Lloyd Photography)

Medicine student Catrin Masson said it was a “great feeling” to be among the marchers.

“It’s a way to feel empowered and I think the message is quite clear – we should feel safe no matter what time of day or night,” said the 22-year-old.

However, it was not only Bristol University students taking part in the event, with other groups in attendance including Bristol Sisterhood and the University of the West of England’s (UWE) Feminist Society.

UWE Feminist Society member Charley Wilde, 21, said: “We’re here to show solidarity with survivors of sexual assault and we think it’s really important to stand against the fact that women don’t feel safe to walk at night.”

protesters delay motorists as reclaim the night march takes over bristol streets 4 - Protesters delay motorists as Reclaim the Night march takes over Bristol streets

Catrin Masson (right) and a friend take part in the Reclaim the Night march (Image: Andrew McQuarrie/Bristol Live)

One of the dozen or so men present was 23-year-old Joe Ballard, who works in the city.

He said: “I just think it’s a really important thing to raise awareness for. It’s embarrassing to live in a society where violence against women is perpetuated and it’s great to see so many women here reclaiming the night.”

Watching the scenes unfolding on Park Street, as a long queue of traffic queued up behind the activists, passerby Noel Briscoe, 61, expressed some bemusement.

He said: “It just seems a rather odd time to have a demonstration – on a Sunday evening.

“But if you want to demonstrate against that [gender-based violence and inequality], it would seem a reasonable thing to do.”

Yet Mr Briscoe added that there have been a lot of protests recently, in his view, before going on to wonder whether residents would become “immune” to them.

protesters delay motorists as reclaim the night march takes over bristol streets 5 - Protesters delay motorists as Reclaim the Night march takes over Bristol streets

Noel Briscoe, an onlooker during the Reclaim the Night march (Image: Andrew McQuarrie/Bristol Live)

When the procession reached the Victoria Rooms at around 6.20pm, Ms Ami addressed the crowd using a loud hailer.

She said: “I know so many friends who have experienced assault… It’s not something we can solve alone.

“It’s something that the privileged and the people benefiting from the patriarchy need to open their eyes to.”

Before thanking everyone who turned up, Ms Ami contributed a political note to proceedings.

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Placards held aloft during the Reclaim the Night march in Bristol (Image: Michael Lloyd Photography)

The aeronautical engineering student said: “The elections are coming up and I strongly suggest you register to vote if you haven’t already and ensure that your vote is for women and for gender equality.”

She added: “There’s a specific party that’s a vote against women, but obviously I can’t mention the name.”

Another speaker followed, before a physical performance was played out depicting a man assaulting a woman.

The march then continued to the Student Union building, which hosted further speeches and performances.

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