Community members hold a vigil in Leif Erickson Park raising awareness about violence against women. Photo Credit – Chris Linder.

By Marcus White

​Duluth, Minn. – Community members from the Twin Ports and surrounding counties marched through Leif Erickson Park on Saturday night, united against sexual violence in the region. The rally came in response to a plan by a controversial men’s group, Return of Kings, to hold a meeting at the same time and location to allegedly discuss issues many consider to be pro-rape and against women.

However, the Return of Kings meeting didn’t occur, and apparently no one from that group made an appearance in Leif Erickson Park Saturday night.
The community rally began with a march by candlelight through the park where attendees held a vigil. The rally then moved along London Road, returning to the parking lot where the march began. Some community members chose to march through downtown, where they set up camp at the corner of Lake Avenue and Superior Street.

“It is important for people in the community to come together like we have tonight to stand up against sexual violence, misogyny and stand with community members who are working on those issues,” said Joel Sipress, UWS professor and Duluth city councilor. “I think it is important for all of us, regardless of our identities, to stand together and work together for justice and equality in the community.”

Sipress went on to say that work to prevent sexual violence has been ongoing in the region and that events such as the one at Leif Erickson Park were important to the cause.

Saturday’s rally came in response to the calls from internet blogger Roosh V for men from around the world to meet up at predetermined locations and discuss issues many have categorized as hate speech towards women and promoting a culture of rape. Duluth was the only city in Minnesota listed on the Return of Kings website as scheduled for a meeting this past weekend.

Earlier this week, the BBC in London reported that Return of Kings had cancelled their global meetups over security concerns. The blogging site reflected this report with pages referring to Saturday night’s planned meeting being deleted. The Promethean obtained access to archived versions of the site to confirm that the meetings had in fact been originally planned.

Community activists chose to go ahead with their rally against Return of Kings to keep their own message going and to raise public awareness of the issue. Adeline Wright, who organized Saturday’s rally, said that the global spotlight on Duluth prompted her to action, especially with Leif Erickson Park being where her daughters regularly play.

The Twin Ports region has had a long history of sex trafficking and sexual violence. In 2011, WCCO-TV, a CBS affiliate in Minneapolis, reported that a study had indicated that in a four-year span, 350 Native American women had been victimized by the sex industry along the North Shore. The study also noted the numbers reflected only survivors who had chosen to report to local authorities and that there likely are more victims who have either been murdered or have chosen not to speak up.