Washington state chapter of the Women’s March disbands, and Michigan co-founder urges supporters to join events unaffiliated with official Women’s March as anger at leaders over Farrakhan and ‘anti-LGBTQism’ grows
Divisions between the different Women’s March chapters are deepening as the third march approaches, centering around support for anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan by three of its national leaders, with at least three local branches either cutting ties or issuing calls against the national group.
The head of the Washington state chapter announced last week that it would disband after the January 19 event. Meanwhile, a former leader of the Michigan state group urged activists to “abstain” from attending marches in Washington D.C. and Detroit funded by the national organization, encouraging them instead to participate in other Michigan marches which are not sponsored by or affiliated with the Women’s March.
A disclaimer now appears also on the home page of the Women’s March Los Angeles, one of the largest in the nation in 2017, which drew celebrities including Barbra Streisand, Kerry Washington, Natalie Portman and Ariana Grande, explicitly distancing itself from the national leadership.
Beem recounted in a December 10 article in Tablet how she pushed for “at least two” of the four co-chairs of the march – Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour – to be removed. Beem was one of several local leaders who reportedly expressed deep dissatisfaction with the movement’s leadership.
The article contained charges that the national group was not financially transparent and had contracted with Nation of Islam-affiliated organizations for security. It also contained an account of Perez and Mallory allegedly “berating” one of the group’s original organizers, Vanessa Wruble, not only for being white, but also for being Jewish, reportedly telling her, “your people hold all the wealth.”
The report added fuel to existing signs of dissatisfaction of many of the original founders and leaders of the Women’s March movement, many of whom – including Teresa Shook, who first conceived of the march – resigned or distanced themselves from the national leadership.
Beem said in her Facebook post she originally joined the Women’s March because she believed it would be “a powerful movement to fight against racism, sexism, and the issues that oppress our marginalized and vulnerable. The four National Team co-chairs have lost sight of that and have allowed their personal biases to cloud our mission and purpose.”
She said she felt that “continuing to be a part of the Women’s March with the blatant bigotry they display would be breaking a promise. We can’t betray our Jewish community by remaining a part of this organization.”
Despite the announcement, she said, five individual cities in Washington were still holding 2019 marches and she asked for donations to help make that happen. “After the 2019 event, each city will determine on their own, if they will continue.”
In Michigan, a letter circulated by a list of signatories calling on activists involved with the march to “reconsider … involvement with the Women’s March Inc. national organization and its affiliate Women’s March Michigan.”
The letter was headed by Sarah Eisenberg, the co-founder of Women’s March Michigan, who has since left the group. “As organizations and individuals committed to inclusion and intersectionality, we urge you to use your voice to push for change, either within the national Women’s March Inc. or within Women’s March Michigan. We ask you to abstain from attending January demonstrations organized by these organizations in Washington DC or in Detroit, and to encourage others to do the same.”
Teresa Shook, credited as one of the women who launched the march on social media, spearheaded the criticism last month when she called on the women now running the “movement” to step down.
Those women include Women’s March National co-chairwomen Carmen Perez, Bob Bland, Tamika D. Mallory, and Linda Sarsour, who is a Palestinian American known for her anti-Israel stance.
The HuffPost reported in November:
In a Facebook post, Shook wrote that the four public faces of the Women’s March should resign because they have strayed from the group’s goals.
“I have waited, hoping they would right the ship. But they have not,” Shook wrote. “In opposition to our Unity Principles, they have allowed anti-Semitism, anti-LBGTQIA sentiment and hateful, racist rhetoric to become a part of the platform by their refusal to separate themselves from groups that espouse these racist, hateful beliefs.”
The march’s leaders, the letter said, “have demonstrated a pattern of repeatedly embracing anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ movements and leaders, and refusing to accept responsibility or to be accountable for their own anti-Semitic statements.”
“I call for the current Co-Chairs to step down and to let others lead who can restore faith in the Movement and its original intent,” Shook continued. “I stand in Solidarity with all the Sister March Organizations, to bring the Movement back to its authentic purpose.”
March leaders have also come under scrutiny for their association with anti-Semite and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
The Washington Examiner reported:
Ms. Mallory, who attended a Farrakhan event in February and called him the “GOAT” [greatest of all time] in a 2015 Instagram post, said her critics have skewed her words and accused them of trying to “rewrite history.”
“I also think that people need to understand that it is a form of black-on-black violence, in my opinion, to pit black people against each other,” said Ms. Mallory, adding, “That’s not something that anybody’s ever going to see me participate in.”
Women’s March leaders also deny that they contracted the Fruit of Islam (FOI), the Nation of Islam’s security wing, to provide security for its leaders.
The latest round of criticism came in an in-depth article on the Tablet website, including what unfolded as the women behind the march first met up in New York City:
It was there that, as the women were opening up about their backgrounds and personal investments in creating a resistance movement to Trump, Perez and Mallory allegedly first asserted that Jewish people bore a special collective responsibility as exploiters of black and brown people—and even, according to a close secondhand source, claimed that Jews were proven to have been leaders of the American slave trade. These are canards popularized by The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews, a book published by Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam—“the bible of the new anti-Semitism,” according to Henry Louis Gates Jr., who noted in 1992: “Among significant sectors of the black community, this brief has become a credo of a new philosophy of black self-affirmation.”
The Tablet reported Mallory and Bland deny this account but “six of the seven women in attendance would not speak openly to Tablet about the meeting, but multiple sources with knowledge of what happened confirmed the story.”
The Tablet also examined the controversy surrounding the Women March’s finances:
Over time, new details of the Women’s March’s organizational structure have been dragged into public view that reveal complicated financial arrangements, confusing even to experts.
Yet within no time, the March leaders would be named 2017 Women of the Year by Glamour magazine. There was a glossy book published with Condé Nast, a lucrative merchandise business selling branded Women’s March gear, and millions of dollars raised through individual donations and institutional funding from major organizations like Planned Parenthood and the powerful hospital workers union, 1199SEIU.
The National Review published a commentary on the state of the Women’s March, speculating on its unraveling:
The apparent bigotry of women such as Sarsour and Mallory seems to be a feature, not a bug, of their identity-based ideology and their insistence on intersectionality. A narrative of historical, society-wide victimization is at the heart of their vision of progress. And any such story requires a hierarchy of grievances, which naturally separates the interest groups supposedly tied together by their shared victim status.
At the same time, every story of victimization requires a victimizer. Intersectionality and its accompanying goal of privileging the powerless necessarily requires identifying and attacking the powerful oppressors — whether it be the specter of capitalism, the ogre of white male privilege, or a figurehead such as Donald Trump. In the case of Women’s March leaders, the search for a villain has taken a sinister turn into anti-Semitism.
Of course, most left-wing agitators drawn to identity politics as a means of motivating the alienated will not go so far as to vilify or hate Jewish people. But the devolution of the Women’s March serves as a cautionary tale about what can happen to political movements that idolize victimhood and invent useful enemies to energize the oppressed.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
December 18th, 2018