“We are just so angry that this is still a problem that we have to care about and have to live with every day.”
She said she was ashamed to be part of a victim-blaming nation that believes it is equal.
Above them, a light plane circled with a banner flowing behind: “WOMEN VOTE TOO.”
Heather Heldzingen of St Kilda, 72, brought her granddaughter, Ella, 18, because “I think it’s very important for us women to show solidarity”.
“Young women are constantly receiving unwanted and unasked for attention that for us is annoying and often very aggressive and hostile.
“I think women have had enough of having to put up with male aggression.”
Joshua Davidson, 24, from Ballarat, brought a sign saying “Educate Your Son”, with a flipside saying “We Believe Her”. He said as a man, “I have a privilege that I can walk around and feel safe in my community” while his 23-year-old sister cannot.
“My sign is saying instead of trying to protect women and shield them, it’s educating men and our sons to treat women with better respect.”
Authorities approved a permit for 5000 people to attend and organiser Marcella Brassett told the cheering crowd to keep their masks on and maintain their distance.
“Guess what, we’re more than 5000 people,” she said.
Ms Banks told the crowd of mostly women that she was initially hesitant to speak up against powerful men at Monday’s action.
“What changed my mind to speak today was this, was all of you,” Ms Banks said. “Whether it’s safety in numbers I don’t know, but there’s a lot of numbers here.”
Ms Banks quit the Liberal Party to sit on the federal crossbench in 2018, citing disrespect for women in Australian politics, before exiting Parliament at the 2019 election.
Sue Anne Hunter, a Wurundjeri and Ngurai Illum Wurrung woman from the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care and co-chair of Family Matters, said Aboriginal women had long-suffered gendered violence perpetrated by white men.
She said that white women needed to “take our cause with you”.
Victoria’s Minister for Women, Gabrielle Williams, attended Monday’s march and said the event proved women were no longer willing to be silent about the way sexual violence pervades their lives.
“What we’re seeing now is the community sending a message that they’re ready to have this conversation publicly. More than ready, they’re eager to have the conversation now,” she said.
Victoria Police praised the behaviour of the crowd, saying “all participants were compliant with the Chief Health Officer restrictions and no breaches or incidents were detected”.
A splinter group peeled off from the rally about 1pm and marched to the Victorian Liberal Party headquarters on Collins Street.
In a tense stand-off lasting 90 minutes, dozens of police, including from the Public Order Response Team and the mounted branch, surrounded protesters and the entrance to the building.
About 200 people, some in school uniforms, blocked Collins Street and a string of teenage girls detailed personal experiences of sexual harassment, assault, and police failures.
The crowd chanted “we believe her” after each testimony.
Protesters sang “Hey, Hey, Ho Ho, Christian Porter’s got to go”, referring to the federal Attorney-General, who has denied allegations that he raped a 16-year-old girl, when he was 17, in the late1980s.
Activist and former politician Phil Cleary said little had changed for women since his sister, Vicki, was killed by her ex-boyfriend outside her workplace in Coburg in 1987. He said women were still being assaulted and murdered.
Police arrested at least four people who glued themselves to the road at the intersection of Flinders and Swanston streets shortly after 1pm.
All four were taken into custody for obstructing traffic. Police emphasised they were not part of March 4 Justice.
with Paul Sakkal
National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line: 1800 737 732.
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Rachel is a city reporter for The Age.
Carolyn Webb is a reporter for The Age.