It was obvious that someone would claim “both sides”. Despite women being hassled, intimidated and surrounded by a lot of very angry men and gaslit women at the Standing for Women Speakers’ Corner event at College Green in Bristol.
I will admit to being a bit surprised that it was the police, though. Because the officers who were on duty this afternoon could clearly see that women, exercising our fundamental democratic right to protest, were speaking to each other.
Yes, we did raise our voices. Because those Infantifa men in masks and their girlfriends chanted, played music, used sirens, sang and shouted through megaphones the whole two hours in an attempt to drown us out.
The front line officers could see who the aggressors were and they were concerned for the safety of the women. They were let down by the Police Commander for the event who should have known from last month’s Manchester speakers’ corner event and the Women’s Place event in Bristol earlier this month that we would be targeted.
Police Commanders need to think about numbers and tactics to keep the groups separated and to keep women safe. They need to realise that men’s rights activists are becoming emboldened, and any further escalation risks a woman being seriously hurt.
I wonder when the penny will drop for senior police officers and others who claim both-sides that the aim of this men’s rights activism is solely to shut women up.
Angry men in masks made it very clear that women were not to speak:
“You are dinosaurs … Die out … Go home, get in the sea, look after your kids”.
If these are what now pass as progressive views, then it’s not just the definition of “woman” they want to change.
Look more closely at the masked man who steps back, who obviously finds shouting at women arousing. This is not about rights for trans people or any other oppressed group, that much is perfectly clear.
I call this stone-cold misogyny – there is no other name for it. These men are beside themselves with rage, barely able to contain their fury.
And those who call women defending our rights to single-sex spaces and sport “bigots”, “dinosaurs” or “haters” – this is what you are supporting.
Dressing it up as civil rights is the only possible excuse for their appalling behaviour, but as Susan points out, it is not the women who look like the white supremacists here.
#LetWomenSpeak had speakers young, old, Black, white, women, men - and girls, wheelchair users & others with disabilities, proudly showing how strongly they felt. The mob screaming at us were masked, overwhelmingly white, male, able bodied & privileged.
When Infantifa followed us to the pub, when they made the area so unsafe that the pub had to close and we had to leave, when they shouted through megaphones that they would leave bad reviews for the pub, their intention was not just to shut women up today, but to make it harder for us to meet at all.
They have form using this tactic. When James Chiavarini’s restaurant Il Portico was attacked both online and physically having held a charity event for Lumos, it was only partly to punish the business for daring to host JK Rowling. It was also to warn other businesses that hosting a future event might be expensive.
Women are being harassed and bullied in a way that no other demographic, no other protected characteristic, would be.
It is not “both-sides” if one group meets to speak and the other tries to drown them out.
It is not “both-sides” when one group goes to a pub and the other follows and intimidates them.
It is not “both-sides” when the police are concerned for the safety of a group of women who have the temerity to speak about our sex-based rights because they are being threatened by masked men.