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Reclaim the Night: A space for all feminist?

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The following text has been sent to the London Feminist Network, lead organisers of the 2009 London Reclaim the Night March:

On 21st Nov 09 Feminist Fightback went as part of a Red Umbrella contingent on the Reclaim the Night March in London. We joined RtN because we are committed to fighting violence against women, and we marched alongside x:talk and the International Union of Sex Workers in solidarity with sex workers organising to fight exploitation in their industry. Nothing in the publicity for the march bans those with our views, nor do we feel our politics to in any way contradict the spirit of an anti-violence march.

Unfortunately, we faced physical harassment and verbal abuse from some people on the march, and were told on a number of occasions that we were not welcome on it. Worse than this, however, was the fact that we were immediately approached and interrogated by the police on arrival – reportedly at the request of one of the stewards. We understand our support for the rights of sex workers to self-organise is at odds with the views of some other groupings in the women’s movement. Yet we were extremely surprised to find that one of the basic principles of feminism (and all social justice movements) was forgotten in this instance – namely, that we never resort to using police aggression to silence and intimidate members of our own movement, no matter how much we may disagree with them.

We strongly hope that this does not set a precedent for the further disintegration of feminism in London. And we are therefore asking London Feminist Network to guarantee that in future the police will not be used against other feminists to close down political debate, and that Reclaim the Night will be a space in which diverse opinions can be expressed. At a time when we face the prospect of a Tory government, threatening to roll out all sorts of further attacks that will have disproportionate effects on women, through public spending cuts and the repressive rhetoric of ‘family values’, it is even more important that we build a movement that can work together on all the issues upon which we agree, and allow room for difference and debate upon those we don’t. We should not be afraid that differences of opinion will block unity in action. In fact it is only by allowing space for diversity of opinion and embracing discussion that our movement will grow.

In Struggle, Feminist Fightback

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