‘I don’t feel safe on the streets’: Protesters in Canterbury call for change

Many of those on the march carried home-made placards.

Scores of people took to the streets of Canterbury in a protest calling for more to be done to prevent violence against women and girls.

They marched under the banner ‘Reclaim These Streets’ with many students from the city’s universities taking part.

The event took place on the evening of Thursday, 4 November, and was partly organised by Kent Labour Students and some local councillors.

But while campaigners said it was great to see so much support for women's safety, they also witnessed assault and sexual harassment during the march.

Christ Church Students' Union said they saw a drunk man "who tried to touch a clearly uncomfortable young woman while she was *literally* on a march about women's safety and consent."

He then went on to ask "why there were no stats being read out about violence against men."

The incidents have been described as a "terrible indictment on society".

  • Watch: Meg Payne & Rhian Shillabeer, protest organisers

The march set off from the Marlowe Theatre before heading on a loop around the city centre, including some footpaths and alleyways that organisers say they would never use alone at night.

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Representatives of Canterbury Christ Church students’ union were also present at the event.

Rhian Shillabeer, a student at the University of Kent, told ITV News Meridian that she recently had an “awful” experience on a night out. “I’ve been spiked, most of my female friends have. As soon as it happened to me, I just couldn't fathom how scary it was. It was such an awful night.”

Student Meg Payne said she wanted to be there because she feels “so anxious and worried” about her safety. “I have personally just never ever felt safe, every single time I have to walk somewhere alone in the dark... We want to change that and make people feel safer.”

The march stopped at several points throughout the city for impromptu speeches by those taking part.

  • Watch: Mel Dawkins & Harry McKenzie, 'Reclaim These Streets' marchers

Harry McKenzie was among the crowds. He told ITV News Meridian: “I’m sick and tired of having to feel scared for my friends when they’re out at clubs. I’m sick and tired of having to stand up for them against other men at clubs, I’m sick and tired of having to check in with them to make sure they’re alright… I just want change.”

One of the organisers of a previous event in the city, in response to the murder of Sarah Everard, also joined the march. Mel Garnett said: “I wanted to show my support for all the girls who’ve been victims of various sexual assaults and spikings in Canterbury but also all around the country. I just want a better future for women everywhere.”