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"Stop This Kind of Violence"
Interview with Liz Brockfest - Organizer of Anti-Sexual-Assault Rally
Ed. Note - A string of sexual assaults have occured in a number of areas in Toronto over the past few weeks. Four women were assalted in the east of downtown core - between the streets of Wellesley, Parliament, Yonge and Sherbourne. An assault also occured at York university which has been plaugued by a string of assaults over the past two years.
A series of assualts in the Bloor/Chrisite areas led residents in the area to rally on Sept. 3rd (and also prompted comments from the Mayor Rob Ford's niece). The Toronto Media Co-op contacted one of the organizers of the rally, Liz Brockfest to talk about the community response.
Toronto Media Co-op: Why was a rally held (as opposed to something else) and who organized it?
Liz Brockfest: The idea for the rally was created as a very spur of the moment gut response to continually reading that sexual assaults are taking place in neighborhoods across the city. When I read about the numerous assaults in my own neighbhorhood I wanted to create a site for collective resistance. I really had no clue the response would be as voluminous or positive. The rally was really a community effort. Numerous individuals came forward to contribute skills, ideas and solidarity.
TMC: Why do you think turnout was high for this rally?
Liz Brockfest: I think people need outlets for resistance. Rally's and other public space initiatives are often somewhat accessible outlets for individuals to take up space and reclaim the streets where violence is taking place. I think the people the attendance was so high because people oppose violence both in their homes and in the streets and need outlets to express their anger as a collective.
TMC: The press has mostly focussed on the symbolic benefit of the rally - I people standing up for each other. Do you think there's a practically benefit to this as well? i.e.. making responses to assault visable, empowering the local community to be more on the lookout, collective safety, etc.?
Liz Brockfest: I think their is a lot of benefits in large groups of people coming together to show their resistance around particular issues. I think collective resistance and community based initiatives are an important site for educating one another, and mobilizing around gender based violence. Even the FB event page became an interesting site for dialogue/education/and creating connection. I think the sheer numbers of individuals who attended on such a short notice demonstrate that individuals recognize that only collective and community based resistance will stop this kind of violence. We all need to participate in educating and challenging one another around the systemic systems of oppression and domination that perpetuate both covert and overt kinds of violence everywhere.
TMC: How would you characterize the police response to the assaults?
Liz Brockfest: Police response in regards to this issue is not my priority. My interest is in community resistance and education.
TMC: It was noted that there wasn't a heavy male turnout to the rally - though there were some there. Do you think that's problematic? Should men being doing more to fight this?
This rally was used to create resistance around gender based violence meaning violence committed by men against women and trans people. I think men need to come together to educate one another and challenge one another around this very important issue. Men cannot be left out of this dialogue as we all need to work together to stop gender based violence. Men need to create spaces for one another to challenge the systems that promote and normalize gender based violence. Men absolutely need to do more to fight this kind of violence. I don't think it is problematic to have men in attendance at the rally, my concern would be surrounding the kind of space they feel entitled to take up at this kind of event.
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(Gwalgen Geordie Dent)
Member since August 2008