Campus Beat Reporter
Balconies along Del Playa filled with onlookers Friday night as fed-up students and community members took to the streets and turned heads for a cause in what student organizers called a “Rally Against Rape Culture.”
Prior to the march, lead organizer Katherine Kepski published her outrage against sexual assault and violence on Facebook and in The Daily Nexus last week. After interfering in an aggressive encounter between a woman and her boyfriend outside Kepski’s home on the 67 block of Sabado Tarde, Kepski decided she’d had enough.
“This is somebody who lives on my street,” Kepski told The Bottom Line about the man who verbally abused his girlfriend after allegedly discovering his friend had raped her while blacked out. The man also called Kepski a “lesbian” and shoved her to the ground. “I feel uncomfortable with it and am tired of staying silent about it.”
With the help of the self-named group, the “Feminasty Guardians,” inspired by the feminist, all-girl band formed at the Santa Barbara Housing Cooperative owned home called Dashain, and the newly formed Santa Barbara Student Activist Network, Kepski rallied support throughout the week for a demonstration she hoped would spark further discussion.
Before beginning the designated route through the Loop and down Del Playa Friday night, the crowd of over 100 supporters gathered at the peak party time of 9 p.m., following a preliminary march down Pardall, in front of the Associated Students Pardall Center to hear testimonies from organizers and survivors.
“I think the most profound effect of what rape culture really is to me is social control,” said Mariah Brennan Clegg, a rally organizer and first year sociology graduate student. “It’s policing other people’s bodies. It’s saying ‘if you have to look this way, then you have to use your body to serve me.’ And that can happen in a lot of different ways, that’s not just sexual assault.”
Clegg also encouraged fellow protesters to consider the broader effects of rape culture and social policing in the framework of eating disorders, clothing restrictions and self-expression.
Following Clegg, Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Speaker Brittney Rachelle Smith, who identified as both a survivor and the daughter of a survivor of sexual assault, echoed the emphasis on changing social culture.
“I’m here because I know that I.V. is a small community and we’re packed in so tightly and we’re known to be partiers and drinkers but that is no excuse for this to be normalized in our society,” said Smith. “That is no excuse for them to say ‘it’s college, what did you expect?’”
In an answer to that question, protesters began their march, fit with posters and battle cries. “2-4-6-8, stop the violence, stop the rape” echoed down streets as residents emerged from storefronts and apartments along the loop. Several were happily swept up in the crowd. Most stayed put, watching as the parade processed onward. As an emotional night for many, one particular pair of friends fell behind for a bit, one woman crying while both embraced.
Emotions remained high as the group carried onward, and turned the corner of the 65 block of Del Playa, stopping traffic and party-goers. “Whose streets, our streets” drowned out two groups of detractors, one that trailed behind the crowd and another that yelled from a second story rooftop, “Grab Hillary by the pussy.”
Protesters came to a halt at the end of 66 Del Playa. Residents of the Jesus Burgers house sang and played guitar in support, while fourth year Chican@ and black studies double major Veronica Mandujano asked the crowd to clap if they identified with statements regarding uncomfortable locker room talk, the fear of walking home alone, or knowing someone who is a sexual assault survivor.
“It wasn’t so surprising,” said fourth year religious studies major and Santa Barbara Student Activist Network founder Eric Villalobos on the large majority of individuals who clapped yes in response to Mandujano’s statements. “While it was very upsetting, I think the clapping called attention to how much work has to be done.”
After a series of similar statements profiling the common fears felt by many women, Mandujano led the crowd in a chant: “Ni putas, Ni santas, solo mujeres” – “Not whores, not saints, just women.”
The march ended in front of Dashain, where the initial incident that motivated Kepski began. According to a statement made after Friday’s rally, Kepski plans to continue activism against rape culture, citing further work that can be done to address inadequate school policies. She also hopes to improve the mentality of police, pointing to comments made by I.V. Foot Patrol Community Resource Deputy James McKarrell in reference to girls wearing short skirts as “easy targets” at a community noise ordinance meeting in August 2015.
“We’re here tonight because we are the ones to bring it into light,” said Mandujano shortly before the night’s end. “We must be the ones to show each other what it looks like to uplift women.”
Oct. 17, 2:34 p.m.: An earlier version of this article stated that a chant was “Mi putas, Mi santas, solo mujeres.” The correct chant is “Ni putas, Ni santas, solo mujeres.”