Two years ago this weekend, more than half-a-million people descended on Washington D.C. for the first Women’s March. Similar rallies were held around Florida and around the country, as was the case in 2018.
But this year’s Women’s March, taking place Saturday, is filled with controversy after accusations of anti-Semitism have been levied at some of the original D.C. march organizers.
That’s prompted the Democratic National Committee and and other mainstream progressive organizations to back out as sponsors, and it’s why former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz says she won’t participate in tomorrow’s rally in Washington.
“While I still firmly believe in its values and mission, I cannot associate with the national march’s leaders and principles, which refuse to completely repudiate anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry. I cannot walk shoulder to shoulder with leaders who lock arms with outspoken peddlers of hate,” the South Florida Congresswoman writes in an op-ed in USA Today.
“Instead, this weekend, I will join a movement of women around the nation who are participating in local marches that have distanced themselves from those national Women’s March leaders who still ally with bigotry.”
There are a number of women’s marches planned in Florida this weekend, with the biggest one scheduled to take place in Orlando.
There have been two incidents that have triggered the accusations that Women’s March organizers are anti-Semitic.
One occurred last month, when the publication Tablet reported that two Women’s March organizers, Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez, had made anti-Semitic comments in initial planning meetings for the march, alleging that Jewish people were strongly responsible for the oppression of people of color. Mallory and the other organizers have denied that story.
Then this past week, Mallory declined to criticize Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has made several derogatory comments about Jews over the years.
Mallory disavowed the anti-Semitism, but refused to renounce Farrakhan, or the Nation of Islam, praising its work on anti-violence efforts in black communities.
As Wasserman Schultz notes in her op-ed, the Nation of Islam has been called a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has also backed out of supporting Saturday’s march in Washington D.C.
The controversy this week has led to consternation about how large this weekend’s Women’s March events will be around the country.
On the Women’s March Florida website, organizers released a statement last year expressing disappointment “in the National response to the condoning of Louis Farrakhan, who espouses misogyny, homophobia and anti-Semitism. But we will not abandon the Movement – we will fight for it.”
The conflicts that many in the women’s movement feel about the Saturday marches around the country was perhaps best articulated this week by New York magazine writer Rebecca Traister.
“As I watch individual shortcomings used to sap the potential energy of the gathering of thousands, to scare off elected officials from taking part, I feel tremendous frustration,” she wrote. “I want to scream: If you were going to march, march!”
In her op-ed, Wasserman Schultz says she will continue to embrace the original intent of the Women’s March, “to raise a collective voice to support our sisters across our great nation.”