Reclaim Headingley Stadium: Protesters call for a safer city

A petition has been set up to encourage local authorities to implement further safety procedures for those using the alleyway which joins Headingley and Burley.

Following huge social media attention surrounding recent alleged sexual assault cases in Headingley, a protest took place near the ‘assault hotspot’ alleyway next to Emerald Headingley Stadium on Friday the 30th of October. The event attracted over 100 students and locals.

A petition, which now has almost 10,000 signatures, has been set up to encourage local authorities to implement further safety procedures near the alleyway to make it safer for students and the local community to use the route.

The alleyway is used as a shortcut to avoid walking around the stadium, however students are said to be feeling increasingly unsafe when using the route. Leeds has seen significant sexual assault rates in recent months, with 4,622 violent and sexual offences reported in student areas such as Headingley and Hyde Park since October 2019. 

 People gathered at 12pm near Headingley Stadium for the event, with protesters following social distancing rules and wearing facemasks. Posters and banners detailing the reasons for the protest were put up along the alleyway whilst participants took the opportunity to discuss their concerns around the issue of sexual assault cases in the city. Some of them are victims. Rhiannon Griffiths, Political and Campaigning Officer for the Leeds University Union Abuse Society and organiser of the protest, gave a speech, criticisng the lack of action from the local government and West Yorkshire Police. Rhiannon said “We usually hear from the university, local police and city council saying they are happy to support what we are doing. However, so far we haven’t witnessed any action from the key people.” She also expressed her confusion as to why local authorities haven’t gotten in touch with them in response to them raising their concerns.

    West Yorkshire Police made a statement on Facebook that one rumoured incident has “not been reported” to them as of yet.

 One of the students who joined the protest has herself experienced incidences of sexual assault in the past, and believes that the council should do more than just cutting down trees behind the alley. Protesters are calling for further measures to be put in place, such as adding more security patrols and installing more CCTV cameras on the road to ensure the safety of women in particular, especially as the darker winter months approach. 

There were some international students who also joined the protest in order to learn more about the situation. Rhiannon emphasised the importance of keeping the local community informed. “As an international student you may not know it is dangerous here. We also want to make sure that students speak out. Both home students and international students’ safety is important and by getting involved they can learn more about the issues in the local community. Everyone living in the Leeds community should join together to make a change.”  

Image Credit: Leeds Live