A large group of community members gathered Thursday night in the South Park Blocks to rally and march against domestic violence and sexual assault.
The rally was in honor of the national event “Take Back The Night” and was sponsored by the Women’s Resource Center. Few men were in attendance, with the majority of the participants being college-age women.
Musician and poet Evalyn Perry opened the event with a speech about domestic violence and women’s liberation.
“I see the bruise on the cheek of that woman in the supermarket, and my hunger grows. I will not be quiet and I will not be pushed aside. I am hungry for justice,” she said.
Perry flew in for the event from her home in Toronto, Canada.
Following Perry, a representative from the Oregon Law Center spoke about legislation concerning women and domestic violence while handouts were given to spectators. One of the bills in question was Senate Bill 752A, a bill concerning the response to victims of crime in Oregon, including sexual-assault victims.
Musician and member of Womb Dialectic Tuyria Autry read a poem by June Jordan that addressed feeling unsafe at night and the struggles of being a woman.
After Autry, two women from the Portland Community College Women’s Resource Center, along with volunteer participants, performed a piece about domestic-violence statistics, leaving the crowd reciting, “Every day a woman fights back!”
More than 200 participants filed out of the amphitheater on the Portland State University campus to begin a march, which was led by the F.A.T.A.S.S cheerleaders who said they were beginning a body revolution which consists of taking pride in being fat and stopping the persecution of people who are fat.
With the cheerleaders leading the way, the march headed down Broadway toward Pioneer Square. The crowd stopped what little traffic there was at numerous intersections. At one point, the marchers walked past the windows of the Heathman Hotel’s restaurant, turning the heads of those eating. One marcher ran up to the glass where a couple was seated and began to yell.
Many marchers carried children, signs and banners, and chanted slogans such as “Women unite, take back the night!” and “We’re here, we’re women, don’t fuck with us!”
Looping around the square and back around the Park Blocks, the crowd made its way back into the campus amphitheater.
Organizers passed out candles as the crowd made a tight circle outside the Smith Memorial Student Union building to hold a silent vigil. Tears were shed by some as people were encouraged to think of those that have been victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
Following the vigil, Perry returned for her musical and spoken-word concert held on the first floor of the SMU. Her music ranged from topics of maxipads to being a lesbian bombarded by commercialism.
Autry commented on some of the problems facing women.
“The reality of sexual assault really hits home,” she said. “It’s really personal.”
She also said she knows the fear of being able to go out at night is a reality for women, children and those of a sexual minority.
Portland community member Jennifer Murdock attended the event after her friend recommended it to her. This was her first time attending “Take Back The Night.” She brought her daughter Maya, a toddler, to the event.
“I think it was really well organized and really inspirational,” she said. “I thought it was a really empowering event.”
Autry’s musical group, Womb Dialectic, closed the event, with roughly less than 60 audience members remaining.
The PSU Women’s Resource Center, in partnership with local activist groups such as Planned Parenthood, Sexual Assault Freedom Empowerment and the Bradley Angle House, organized the annual event.