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Take Back the Night defeated?

Council seeks to restrict marchers to sidewalks

Plattsburgh State students head up the steps of City Hall in hopes the Common Council will allow them to hold an annual rally in the streets.

Plattsburgh State students head up the steps of City Hall in hopes the Common Council will allow them to hold an annual rally in the streets. Photo by Stephen Bartlett.

PLATTSBURGH — Organizers of a yearly rally held to protest sexual violence against women don’t understand why they cannot take to the streets this year.

Take Back the Night has been allowed in the streets for three years now, they say, so why should this year be different?

But Plattsburgh City officials say that is not the case. They approved the rally but restricted it to the sidewalks, saying they never intended to allow the women to march in the streets.

“There are pictures and videos of us marching in the street,” said Dr. Simona Sharoni, a professor at Plattsburgh State and Chair of the Gender and Women’s Studies Department. “We have been marching in the streets the past three years.”

In fact, videos and photographs show Plattsburgh City Police offering coordinated assistance in past years during the rally.

Still, city officials say that was never the intent when they approved the event.

“Whether they walked in the road in the past,” said Mayor Donald Kasprzak, “we voted on the sidewalk.”

Take Back the Night began in Belgium in 1976 to protest the violence women experienced. The first known Take Back the Night march in the United States was organized in San Francisco, California in November of 1978.

Today it is an international march and rally held to protest rape and other forms of sexual violence against women.

The local group is seeking permission to hold an event from 9:15 to 10 p.m., April 21. They would march from Brinkerhoff Street to Margaret Street and then back up Broad Street. The group has walked in the street each year since 2008.

But during the April 4 Common Council meeting, Kasprzak said the Take Back the Night group was insisting they be allowed to walk in the road at night, something he said has never been allowed.

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