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Students and community march against sexual violence

By Katy Atherholt, September 25 2014 —

Hundreds took to the streets on Sept. 19 to rally against violence toward women in Calgary’s 33rd annual Take Back the Night (TBTN) march. 

Demonstrators gathered at Connaught Park to show support for those affected by violence against women and demonstrate for a woman’s right to walk the streets alone. 

“Our main objective is to end the silence and stop the violence,” said TBTN organizing committee member Christina Pyne. “It’s about taking back our voices and empowering ourselves to feel confident walking down the streets of our own city.”

TBTN was first held in Philadelphia in 1975 after Susan Alexander Speeth was stabbed while walking home. Since then, TBTN marches have been held in hundreds of cities around the world. 

While TBTN focuses on violence against women, Pyne said people of all genders are welcome to participate.

“We do ask that women walk unescorted in the streets just to represent the symbolism of being able to walk on their own without fear. Men are able to walk on the sidewalks to show their support,” Pyne said. 

TBTN is a worldwide, grassroots, non-profit organization headed by a five-member planning committee. Pyne has helped organize TBTN since 2009 when it was at risk of disbanding due to lack of organization. 

Several activists made speeches before the march. One performed a spoken-word piece, one spoke about violence against Indigenous women and another talked about the role men have in stopping abusive relationships. 

The Sisters from Another Mother, an aboriginal women’s group, led the march down 14th Ave. with drums and chants.

The march covered a total of 10 blocks along downtown’s Beltline.

Many community groups, along with the University of Calgary’s Consent Awareness and Sexual Education Club (CASE), attended the event.

CASE president Emily Leedham said TBTN provides a rare opportunity to safely discuss sexual assault in a large, public forum. 

“There are not many places where you can get truly angry about sexual assault. It’s nice to have somewhere you can really express that,” Leedham said.

Organizers speculated about why the event wasn’t permitted in a more populated. Pyne said the City of Calgary has been supportive of TBTN, but they declined permit requests for the march to take place on a busier street.

“The city has decided that they won’t have any marches or parade routes down 17th because of the safety involved and the disruption it would cause public transit and traffic, as well as the businesses on that road,” Pyne said.

Pyne and Leedham said TBTN could come to U of C’s main campus.

“We want to make sure that we get it into an area that is visible for a large population and a large demographic.” Pyne said.

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