Last night, Park Slope and the surrounding areas responded to the recent string of sexual attacks with a good old-fashioned rally. Newly-formed local group Safe Slope organized the march, which in our estimate attracted about 300-400 people — definitely more than the “Rape Cops” protest earlier this summer — and took up two whole blocks of the Slope. Runnin’ Scared arrived early to the starting place right next to the Prospect Avenue R train. A sizeable crowd had already assembled on the scene; we’ve never seen so many dogs, little kids, and politicians in one place.
Spotting a woman in an interesting t-shirt, we took a picture:
Colleen Eren is a Park Slope resident and a runner, who says she often goes out for runs at 5 a.m. in the dark. Her husband has offered to accompany her, but Eren told him no. “We shouldn’t have to modify our behavior” because of the crimes, she said. “It just feeds into the stereotype that we can’t defend ourselves.”
Runnin’ Scared went deeper into the crowd and found this little girl. We liked her sign. She told us that “My mommy did the words, and I did the drawings”:
A woman patted her cheek and said, ” ‘A generation free of violence.’ And you’re going to be part of that, honey.”
The march began; police escorts directed the crowd, which at this point was pretty big, in a circuitous route over to the rallying place at 17th Street and 7th Avenue. Chants echoed through the mass of people (“No more silence / No more violence!” “Two, four, six, eight / No more violence, no more rape!”).
Drivers honked their horns, and people standing on their stoops cheered. A gaggle of teenage boys lounging on a stoop yelled, “We’re gonna beat him up!” (regarding the rapist, presumably).
Some people we met along the way:
That’s Aaron Breslow, who lives in Park Slope and told us he came out last night to show that “There are some male feminists in the world.” (Apologies for the poor photo quality; it was a BlackBerry).
The above are members of Still Strong, described to me as a “social club and auto club” consisting of men and women from the neighborhood. They had cool jackets.
At the rally, a long litany of speakers (at least 10) stood up one by one to address the crowd, including Councilmembers Brad Lander (39th District) and Sara Gonzalez (38th District). “It is time to stand up and to speak out,” Lander said. Lander told Runnin’ Scared later that he saw his primary responsibility as “getting the police to catch these creeps.”
“There’s been a community outcry for more uniform and plainclothes police officers on the streets,” he said. He thinks that the police have started to respond appropriately.
Sara Gonzalez, who recently funded free self-defense classes for women in the area, stood barefoot on the soapbox (“I had to take my heels off, right?”). She encouraged everyone to take a rape whistle and to avoid walking with headphones on.
As speaker after speaker stood up to give speeches and give self-defense demos, the crowd started to thin out a bit. We managed to snag Jessica Silk, an organizer of Safe Slope, for a minute or two before we left. Silk, who works as a program coordinator at Planned Parenthood, said that the group started papering the neighborhood with wanted posters at the beginning of the summer and more recently “decided to do something more.” The group is organizing a Safe Walk program, which will pair people walking home alone at night with a walking buddy, and a Safe Space program, which will partner with local businesses so that people who feel unsafe on the street have somewhere to stop inside if they need to.
And this is all great — but as a reminder, the sexual attackers are still at large. There is now a third police sketch of a third possible suspect:
Go to Runnin’ Scared for more Voice news coverage.