Rallying for Choice in Belfast 14th October 2017

Date:

On 14th October 2017, Rally for Choice will march through the streets of Belfast. - Last year saw us counter protest the Rally for Life in the North of Ireland, for the first time we marched against their lies instead of our usual static demo. Our counter protest was a huge success, despite being organised at short notice and with only a handful of activists. The protest burst across our streets and convened at Buoy Park afterwards for speakers. We outnumbered the Rally for Life 2016 significantly.

This year, with heightened urgency, even more organisers have come together to have a stand-alone march. We do not need Rally for Life to galvanise us. We are here, in huge numbers, and we are angry.

  • Angry that we are ignored.
  • Angry that we face discrimination.
  • Angry that our sisters and other pregnant people are forced to travel for access to a basic human right.
  • Angry that we are being persecuted by the law and the media.

Rally for Choice is a revolutionary, grassroots, feminist organisation of ordinary people who have come together to make our voices heard. We have an anarchist structure and strive for a horizontal organising arrangement where everyone is equal. Roles are rotated so that no one becomes burned out or takes on too much. We try to avoid terms like manager or leader, and use co-ordinator instead. Our structure is very inspired by the Workers Solidarity Movement.

Organising a Rally for Choice in the North has been a complex but liberating process. We have gathered into sub-groups for Social Media, Outreach and Fundraising, as well as the official paperwork that comes with holding a protest in Belfast, plus we have strong branding which is very important (as we learn from any episode of The Apprentice). We have been meeting weekly to fortnightly since May 2017.
Paperwork

There are only two places in the city where we are officially allowed to gather without Public Liability Insurance (PLI): outside Queen's University and City Hall. Neither of these are large enough for the Rally for Choice. Buoy Park (officially known as Cathedral Gardens) is free to use, but we need permission from Belfast City Council and we must purchase PLI. Other places in the city require gatherings to pay. Paying to protest isn't something we should have to do.

We have encountered so much resistance from Belfast City Council, that it has been hard to avoid the impression that they are trying to silence us. One of our events, Picnic for Choice in Botanic Gardens, was declined permission at 4pm the day before it was held.

Any march in the North requires a notification to be sent to the Parades Commission. They don't grant permission per se, but they must be notified. They can put restrictions on the march and we will have to have an official meeting with them 10 days before the Rally. The Rally can be classified as 'contentious' up to 14 days before. This will require more meetings and paperwork.

The City Centre PSNI will also be informed ahead of the day.

Branding
We are very lucky to have talented artists within the group. They have designed some strong pieces of artwork. The colour purple was chosen due to its feminist connotations. And our logo is easily recognisable as a symbol demanding liberation from oppression.
One of our meetings was a workshop where one of our members shared their knowledge and skills with graphic building so that more of us can contribute towards making images for future events.

Social Media
We have a team of people to spread the word on our various social media platforms. We can increase our reach and impact by posting to Facebook regularly. This is much more accessible for our comrades who are not able to make regular meetings.

  • We started out on Facebook as Rally For Choice Ireland
  • We're now on Instagram @RallyforChoiceIreland
  • We have a Twitter account - @rallyforchoice
  • And we also do Snapchat the odd time – rallyforchoice
  • Our lovely website has a beautiful purple theme http://rallyforchoice.org/

Please follow us to keep up to date.

We have an excellent video about why we are doing this, and there is another one coming soon...

Outreach
One of the main aims of starting this new group was to empower people who haven't been involved in activism before. We have had an amazing response to our Open Organising Meetings. We simply post them on the Rally for Choice Ireland Facebook page and the result has been incredible. An average meeting has around 12-20 people show up, many of them new to Pro-Choice activism and the horizontal structure we have in place means most people get straight to work!

As it's incredibly close to all our hearts, we want to include and involve as many people as possible. We've sent information packs to Women's Centres and Groups across the province. We've held pro-choice information stalls to distribute leaflets in Belfast and in Tyrone. One of the reasons why we chose October is that we want people from the March for Choice in Dublin on 30th September 2017 to be inspired, and come and support us in the North! We want everyone to come to Rally for Choice. We don't want this to be just Belfast. We want this to represent people Ireland-wide.

Fundraising
To make sure we have complete autonomy and are not beholden to anyone except ourselves, we have held fundraisers. Past and future events include a Karaoke night, a Feminist Media Discussion, and a Gig Night. We also have a crowdfunder on the go, where you can get T-shirts, tote bags and badges which closes at 11pm tonight. The amazingly generous response from supporters has been really heart-warming. Please visit the crowdfunder and help us make this rally massive!
https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/rally-for-choice-2017

We will use this kindness wisely. Holding a successful Rally is expensive. As well as the leaflets, posters, stickers, public liability insurance and outlay for merchandise, we also want to make a huge purple banner and have some purple surprises for a bit of atmosphere on the 14th October.
Our hope the day of the Rally is a day of strength and solidarity. We want people to use it as a springboard to meet other activists and become involved with the movement. We want to be heard. And we want our human rights. Now.

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