GirlsNightIn: Manchester students plan club boycott and protest tonight amid drink spiking worries

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Venues are being boycotted on Wednesday 27 October in protest at the shocking spiking incidents at clubs and bars.

Manchester authorities have pledged to clamp down on drink spiking as alarm at a spate of incidents in the city and across the country continues to grow.

Women have been coming forward in increasing numbers to report their drinks being spiked in bars and clubs on nights out.

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On Wednesday, a protest is set to be held in Manchester, with all local venues being boycotted to the issue. Plans are being shared on Instagram under the handle GirlsNightInManc, where campaigners have posted a letter asking for the authorities to do more.

And some city clubs have decided voluntarily shut their doors in solidarity with the protesters, who will be at St Peter’s Square tonight at 7pm.

Manchester’s authorities have vowed to deal with the problem and ensure people going out to enjoy themselves are kept safe.

What has been happening?

Young women have been reporting having their drinks spiked on nights out, with students particularly raising the alarm around the issue.

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It is those currently studying at university in the city who are behind next week’s protest boycott on 27 October.

Protestors have spoken about wanting better education for security staff in venues for how to deal with spiking and its victims, more searches to prevent substances getting in and covers or cling film being available for people who wish to put them over their drinks.

It is hoped that the nightclub boycotts will pressure venues to tacle a recent surge of reports of spiking.It is hoped that the nightclub boycotts will pressure venues to tacle a recent surge of reports of spiking.
It is hoped that the nightclub boycotts will pressure venues to tacle a recent surge of reports of spiking.

Earlier this month Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said it had received five reports of drink spiking in the Fallowfield area of the city throughout the month of September and had also dealt with an incident involving three girls who became unwell at a nightclub at Deansgate Locks and were taken to hospital.

The Fallowfield victims were all women and all had displayed the same symptoms, which included vomiting. GMP said all five were being supported by specially-trained officers.

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The force had assigned extra patrols to Fallowfield at weekends in October and had also issued social media advice for venue goers.

What have police in Manchester said?

GMP said on 8 October that it was determined to catch those responsible and to ensure that people heading into the city centre for a night out were safe.

The police also gave suggestions of what people who thought their drink had been tampered with could do.

Students are preparing to boycott nightclubs in Bristol and across th UK to pressure venues to do more to combat the recent increase in spiking.Students are preparing to boycott nightclubs in Bristol and across th UK to pressure venues to do more to combat the recent increase in spiking.
Students are preparing to boycott nightclubs in Bristol and across th UK to pressure venues to do more to combat the recent increase in spiking.

Detective Inspector John Robb, of GMP’s City of Manchester south division, said: “Drink spiking is a horrible experience for anyone, but we are starting to see that women are being targeted in this area and therefore we will be increasing our presence to help protect people and prevent these crimes.

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“We are working with bars and the University of Manchester, and will have officers on patrol this weekend to catch these offenders and ensure everyone has advice and guidance on how best to keep themselves safe when enjoying their night out.

“We encourage everyone on a night out to have fun, but remain alert and if anyone sees anything suspicious to report it to us right away.

“Whilst we will do all we can to tackle this, we recommend taking preventative measures too, such as not leaving your drink unattended and never accepting a drink that you haven’t seen being prepared.

“If you suspect you have been spiked, seek medical advice and report it to the police as soon as you can.

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“Any reports we have of drink spiking will be taken seriously and the more information we have about these kind of incidents the more we can build a bigger picture and target those responsible.

“We hope everyone in Manchester enjoys their time here, and it’s our job to help make sure that happens.”

What have the authorities said?

Concerns over women having their drinks spiked comes amid an ongoing debate about women’s safety on the streets.

It is just a few weeks since Wayne Couzens was given a whole-life prison sentence for kidnapping, raping and murdering Sarah Everard in London while serving as a Met Police officer.

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Leading politicians in the city-region have now vowed to do more to prevent women being harassed and attacked and spoke of some of the organisations working in Manchester to keep the streets safe.

Bev Hughes, Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester for Police, Crime and Criminal Justice, said: “I want Greater Manchester’s streets, workplaces, schools, universities and homes to be safe for everyone.

“Nobody should be made to feel threatened, unsafe or intimidated in our city-region.

“It is absolutely understandable that at this time, given recent events, people in Greater Manchester might have concerns or anxieties when it comes to their personal safety while on a night out in our city-region.

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“We take the wellbeing of our residents and those visiting our cities and towns incredibly seriously.

Baroness Beverley Hughes. Photo: Martin Rickett/Pool/AFP via Getty ImagesBaroness Beverley Hughes. Photo: Martin Rickett/Pool/AFP via Getty Images
Baroness Beverley Hughes. Photo: Martin Rickett/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

“The public should be reassured that Greater Manchester Police works hard to keep our citizens safe.

“There are also a number of safety campaigns specifically targeted at those enjoying our exciting and entertaining night-time economy, such as the LGBTQ Foundation’s Village Haven and Village Angels scheme and Transport for Greater Manchester’s concerted drive to improve safety across our public transport network.

“Last month, Greater Manchester Combined Authority published our Greater Manchester Gender-Based Violence Strategy. It includes prioritising work, already under way, with the newly established Sexual Violence Action Network for Students to develop a hard-hitting campaign to challenge behaviours and attitudes and prevent sexual violence and harassment.

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“The strategy also commits to the launch of a sustained public awareness campaign, directed at educating men and boys, to challenge attitudes and behaviours.”

What has the industry said?

Sacha Lord, Greater Manchester’s night-time economy advisor, said he wants to sit down with the protestors and engage with them over the issue.

He said a zero-tolerance policy towards spiking of all kinds is required.

Mr Lord told a regional radio programme: “I’m speechless by what has been described. The stories [from people who have been spiked] are heartbreaking.

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“This is not acceptable. If anybody knows friends or people who do this I strongly say: ‘call it out’. It’s not right and it must be stopped.

Sacha Lord. Photo credit: Darren Robinson PhotographySacha Lord. Photo credit: Darren Robinson Photography
Sacha Lord. Photo credit: Darren Robinson Photography

“If you don’t feel right, go to the nearest member of staff for help.

“I don’t know how this stuff is being smuggled into venues but it is absolutely not acceptable. We must do everything we can and as operators it is our responsibility to look after people in our venues.”

Mr Lord said work is being done to look at a safety charter for Greater Manchester and said he and the city-region’s elected mayor Andy Burnham had held a listening exercise before the Covid-19 pandemic with four universities.

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And how about the university?

A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “The safety and wellbeing of our students is always of the utmost importance to us and any reports of an individual having their drinks spiked is always alarming to hear.

“We understand the extreme seriousness of such incidents and would encourage any student who believes they have been spiked to seek medical attention if needed, and report it to the police as soon as they can. Reports of drink spiking will be taken seriously.

“If this happens on campus we urge students to contact security for immediate support through either the SafeZone app, or by calling the number on the back of their student card. Students can also tell us via our Report and Support platform and a member of our Advice and Response team will respond as a matter of urgency to support them.”

“As a University, we are working with various agencies including student partners and Greater Manchester Police as part of the Sexual Violence Action Network for Students on this issue.”

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What advice has been given?

People heading out for a night were this week given five pieces of advice to help them stay safe.

They were encouraged to plan their journey to and from the venue, avoid going to a bar, club or party alone, not to accept a drink from someone they do not trust, not to leave their drink unattended and to look after each other on nights out and be mindful of friends.

Police said anyone wanting to report anything suspicious in venues can get in touch by ringing 101, calling independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or using the Live Chat function at www.gmp.police.uk

Anyone with information about the Fallowfield incidents can ring 161 856 6063 quoting incident number 1795 of 29/09/2021.

And anyone who can help police with the Deansgate Lock incident should call 161 856 4409 or 101 quoting incident number 579 of 04/09/21.

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