A group of mostly women weaved its way through the streets of Ann Arbor as the sun went down Friday night. As the crowd of about 100 turned from East Liberty Street onto State Street, a middle-aged man standing on the sidewalk flashed a thumbs-up sign in support of the marchers.
The participants in the 28th annual Take Back the Night march walked around the streets of Ann Arbor at dusk to assert their ability to be outside at night without the fear of sexual assault, said Ariel Esterkin, a graduate student in the School of Social Work and the School of Public Health and a member of the campus group University Women Against Rape.
“That’s when people feel less safe,” Esterkin said. “During the day, we feel a certain sense of security because there are more people around.”
Several sexual assaults have been reported near campus in the last several months, including a reported rape on Mary Street in February and a reported sexual assault near the Michigan Union last month.
The rally began at 7 p.m. on the Diag. Musicians played drums decorated with peace symbols and invited marchers to play along.
Eric Gutenberg, a Washtenaw County prosecutor who deals with sex crimes, was the event’s keynote speaker. He has worked to change the way rape cases are handled so that women only need to work with one prosecutor.
Munster, Ind. resident Erica Ranade, a singer and songwriter, played four songs at the rally about women who had been abused, while Ann Arbor resident Aaron Orr, a member of the local band Belikos, read poetry to the crowd.
In a speech before his reading, Orr told the crowd why he wanted to perform at the event.
“Maybe we can stop some of this ridiculousness for women,” he said.
After an hour of speeches and performances, the crowd began to march down South University Avenue. Police blocked off traffic along the route.
The crowd marched silently on Thompson Street in honor of women who have died as a result of domestic violence. The crowd chanted and played the drums during the rest of the march.
The rally and march has been held in Ann Arbor every year since 1978. The event was originally planned by the National Organization of Women. Now it is sponsored by the Ann Arbor Coalition Against Rape and University Women Against Rape, a student group.
All campus groups that identify themselves as women’s organizations are invited to participate. Eleven groups set up booths on the Diag Friday to show support for Take Back the Night.