Your unaffiliated with TBTN Bwog Editor Claire Sabel and trusty reporter Alex Jones took part in the march (well, strolled alongside it on the sidewalk, at the request of the organizers.) They were surprised and touched by the levels of engagement and enthusiasm. A summary of their observations follows.
Last night an estimated 800 participants from Columbia, Barnard, and the local community joined together for a two-hour march around campus, demonstrating solidarity against sexual violence. The spirit of the demonstrators was full of empowerment and pride, buoyed by collective whistling and chanting as they walked the streets. The march wove around College Walk, Frat Row, Broadway, Amsterdam and Claremont, marshaled on all sides by student volunteers and supported by a team of auxiliary NYPD officers. Onlookers and observers from apartment buildings cheered on the protesters, by joining in or encouraging them with shouts and waves. It was an impressive and cohesive demonstration of allied opposition to silence about an issue that is pervasive on college campuses around the country, most recently exemplified at Yale. There were significant allusions to recent events at New Haven with the chant: “Yes means yes, no means no!”
Take Back the Night provides an important annual reminder that sexual assaults do happen on campus, and that we are often reluctant and ashamed to talk about them. As a frequent refrain went, “Rape is a felony, even with a CUID.” There were trained councilors accompanying the event at all times should participants feel the need to confide in someone, and there were many displays of affection and mutual support among the crowd, hugging, holding hands, and linking arms. The night culminated in a Speakout, a formidable display of empowerment mutual support. Victims of abuse gathered in the blacked-out gymnasium to share their stories in anonymity. Press were justifiably not allowed to attend this portion of the event.
This year’s march was just as successful as those in the past. Onlookers from the community welcomed their presence, and voiced whole-hearted support of their efforts. “It’s wonderful, I think it’s great that they’re doing this,” an elderly woman told Bwog. She and her husband live on 116th St, and came out watch the march by the Barnard Gates. They had seen posters about Take Back the Night at nearby bus stops and were impressed by the strong turnout. The event is one of the most well-coordinated demonstrations of student activism within the Columbia community, and will continue as such until the prevalent culture of sexual violence is finally met with due justice.