As Christmas lights twinkled overhead, sparks flew on the streets below as 100 people marched for Bristol’s annual Reclaim the Night march on Thursday evening (November 25).
Although the march from the Victoria Rooms to Queen Square was planned in advance, protesters made a number of unscheduled stops along the way where they drew crowds with their chanting and samba drumming.
Organiser Alena Chety said that she wanted the protest to ‘show people what we think and what we believe and just to feel heard.’
Headline issues raised at this year’s protest include the rise in incidences of drink spiking in clubs, and the fact that 2021 has seen the highest number of reported rapes on record.
‘It’s hard to feel safe,’ said Alena, who has friends who have been spiked. ‘It’s so normalised and that makes me angry.’
Last month, Bristol City Council launched a campaign against drink spiking, and the Council has been awarded £282,000 of Home Office funding to tackle crimes against women at night.
Alena said that these moves make her ‘optimistic,’ but she feels that work still needs to be done in education, such as consent education at universities and men’s education through, for instance, men’s groups ‘to undo that toxic masculinity.’
Reclaim the Night began in 1977 in Leeds to protests violence against women and has since grown into an annual event across the country.
Thursday’s protest was organised single-handedly by Alena after she saw no one else doing it.
Asked for her advice to others who want to organise their own protests but feel intimidated, Alena said: ‘There’s a lot of mental barriers and you need a lot of reassurance so find a friend who can reassure you through every step.’
‘Just reach out to different Facebook groups who share the same etos and cause, often you will find someone who has done it before and has the right contacts. And it’s word of mouth and just trying to spread the word as much as possible.’
Thursday’s march ended in Queen Square where the statue of William III was bedecked with a Reclaim the Night banner and placards were placed around the foot of the plinth.