Yesterday, as Occupy Wall Street prepared for a late afternoon protest that would result in mass arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge, over a thousand people gathered in Union Square for a few hours of marching and rallying at SlutWalk NYC. The event drew a diverse crowd of mostly-female protestors, some who were wearing very little and carrying (somewhat) clever signs. Most were more than willing to vent their frustrations about victim-blaming and slut-shaming.
The march took off down Broadway at around 12:30 and chants of “I’m no slut, I’m no hoe/Whatever you call me, no means no!” kept up their momentum for the entirety of the more-than-hour-long walk. At one point, part of the march got stuck at an intersection. As the crowd waited to cross the street, a woman pole danced to Lady Gaga while the group chanted, “Rapists, go fuck yourselves!” The clueless teenagers outside the Strand gawked for a few minutes, and then, like any good members of Gen Y, broke out their camera phones.
Along the route, the group met supporters in the form of cheering crowds and topless women waving from a second-story window on 4th Avenue. A homeless man who, upon hearing someone yell, “Rape is a felony, even by NYPD,” turned to an officer and took up his own chant of, “You better believe it.”
Poetry readings and live music greeted the marchers as they returned to Union Square. As people crowded together around the stage to listen, a couple women passed out copies of The Occupied Wall Street Journal. Upon receiving it, a shockingly large number of people asked if it was the same thing as The Wall Street Journal.
We stopped to talk to Ashley Drzymala, one of the women passing it out, and discovered that she was one of the protestors who’d been pepper-sprayed last weekend. “I think it’s important to realize that all oppression is connected and a lot of it has to do with this patriarchal society that we live in that’s marginalized people and oppressed people from so many different backgrounds and walks of life,” she said. When asked about the connection between the two protests, she replied, “I think it shows a lot that men prey on vulnerable women all the time. That was a perfect example of it. We were a threat to them because we had video cameras in our hands, recording their abuse, and therefore they felt the need to use violence against us.”
While many of the attendees were locals who came out to specifically protest the behavior of the NYPD in response to the recent Park Slope rapes, others had traveled long distances to attend. We talked to three members of a group that had come up from the University of Delaware about why they thought it was worth the drive. “We came to support the sluts and to go for a good cause and have a good day in the city. We want to be able to dress like sluts and not get raped. Rape is done by rapists, not the way we dress or the way we dance or the things we say,” they said, echoing the sentiments of most people we encountered.
As the speeches began, onlookers gathered in the second-story windows of Whole Foods and Forever 21. Although the sudden rain reduced the size of the crowd, many stayed to listen to the speakers recount their personal experiences with sexism. We ran into Victoria, 15, who explained her own personal connection to the rally’s purpose: “I’ve had friends who’ve been raped and molested and nothing has happened to them. I’ve gotten so many cat calls and touches that don’t really count in the legal system as molestation but they kind of get to your head.”
By the time the rally dispersed at about 3:30 with a final request from organizers for solidarity and help in restoring Union Square to its original (moderately?) clean state, the crowd had thinned to a few hundred supporters. On their way out, many stopped to put their name down on a list to help with future organizing, showing that they took the organizers seriously when they’d shouted, “Let’s keep this shit going!”