Five sex workers from Ipswich have been murdered in ten days. The leader of the County Council, Jeremy Pembroke, has urged women not to go out alone. But as a response local people are organising a "Reclaim the Night" event to assert their freedom to go out at night (Press Release).
So on Friday the 29th of December, almost 300 people gathered outside Ipswich Town Hall, with candles on the steps. After two speakers there was a walk down to Handford Road (the red light district). In an adjacent park a minutes silence was observed and five white roses were laid in an adjacent park to commemorate those murdered. Chants ranged from "We're marching for the right, to walk alone at night" to "We don't need protection, we need a revolution".
On the march
A statement from the organisers included "We call for both men and women to rise together and say 'enough'. We will not accept the advice that women must not go out alone at night, for this stigmatises those who are attacked as somehow responsible and makes women who ARE out alone more of a target. Instead, we believe safety must come from the community banding together and looking out for each other. Staying safe is not just an individual's responsibility, it is the responsibility of every single one of us to protect and care for those around us - our friends, families and community members. We will not let the media hype scare and divide us, destroying our sense of community when we need it the most."
The first speaker was Teresa MacKay of the TUC. She talked about the attitudes and policies in the areas of sex work and drugs that contributed to the tragedy, and read out some of the appalling statistics about sexual crimes, sex work and drugs in this country. Nationally the conviction rate for rape is 5.6% and in Suffolk it is a pitiful 1.6%.
The other speaker was Sarah from the English Collective of Prostitutes. She said prostitution is not abuse, in and of itself. It is the value system that causes problems. She asked those attending to oppose the proposed criminalisation of men. Our priority should be safety for the women, and all criminalisation drives women underground, away from help. She was glad that men were invited to participate in the event. (ECP news)
People had travelled from many places including Birmingham, Brighton, Cambridge, Colchester, London, Manchester, Norwich, Portsmouth, Scotland and Wales to attend. The organisers thanked all those who came along, with particular thanks to the Norwich Anarchists, the Green Party (who provided soup to those there), the Salvation Army (who provided somewhere to sleep for those who could not get home that night) and the TUC.
EASF also has some gallery pics: