Emily Cowling and Dominique McDougal were among those who helped create an impromptu flash mob dance at Civic Center Plaza on Thursday for the One Billion Rising movement.
The pair, along with other members of the LINES Dance Center troupe, said they had only learned the moves for “Break the Chain” a few days ago, but the music blasting in front of City Hall made it feel like the right time to perform.
“And it’s for such a good cause,” McDougal said.
The flash mob, which featured about three dozen people, was part of the global activism movement One Billion Rising, which called on men and women worldwide to take a stand against violence toward women and girls. Hundreds of people gathered outside City Hall, with some holding signs that read, “No more abuses, no more excuses” and, “I rise for women who have died to gang rape.”
The group also participated in a dance meant to protest any act of violence.
“Dancing is the form of protest, but not a violent protest,” said Marily Mondejar, organizer of the Civic Center event and president of the Filipina Women’s Network — and herself a victim of domestic violence. “Culturally, dancing has been used in other countries to protest government organizations. It releases your body, emoting and saying that, ‘I am going to free myself’ from whatever oppression or situation you’re in.”
According to the United Nations, one in three females worldwide will be raped or abused in their lifetimes. That equates to some 1 billion. The movement is calling for an end to the violence.
Mondejar said she was dancing in memory of Claire Joyce Tempongko of San Francisco, who was killed by her ex-boyfriend in 2003.
“And I’m dancing for all the victims and survivors and all those in abusive relationships and not able to leave the relationship,” Mondejar said. “We’re hoping this action gives them the courage to seek help.”
She said the City Hall event was one of the last held around the world because of the time zone, but it wasn’t the only event held in The City. Starting as early as 10 a.m., hundreds of men and women danced throughout San Francisco to show support for the cause. The activist group Code Pink even danced across the Golden Gate Bridge. Flash mob dances also were held at city jails and at Washington High School.
About 11 a.m. in the Mission district, several hundred people gathered to hear live music and DJs before dancing their way to City Hall to join the official festivities there.
At City Hall, David Solnit, 49, held the head of a 14-foot-tall puppet with a sign that read “Nuestra, our Mission, No más violacion, Stop Rape,” with Spanish words followed by English translations.
“I have sisters and women in my life,” Solnit said. “Men have to stand up — we are part of the problem. It’s not women and families who have to change, it’s men. We have to stand up.”