The Fracturing of the Women’s March
By Noah Bernhardt
In the days following the election of Donald Trump as president, several groups and individuals coalesced into the entity now known as the Women’s March. The 2017 Women’s March drew record crowds of over 5 million people across 408 locations in the United States alone, making it one of the three largest single-day demonstrations in U.S. history. Initially, it comprised women of multiple perspectives, including Vanessa Wruble, a Jewish journalist and activist, Tamika Mallory, a southern gun control activist and Carmen Perez, a criminal justice reformer. The latter two women were initially brought on when Wruble reached out to a contact at The Gathering For Justice network, hoping to increase representation of minorities in the leadership of the fledgling march.
After a successful march however, the mood when the co-chairs met again was anything but jovial. Mallory and Perez felt that minorities were underrepresented in leadership (five white or Jewish women, three women of color), and that Jewish people were a part of the oppressive group, not the repressed group, due to a “secret history in the slave trade.” Mallory and Perez, along with Linda Sarsour, all three of whom currently co-chair the Women’s March Inc., found their beliefs about jewish slave owners in books, most notably “The Secret relationship Between Blacks and Jews” published in 1991, and speeches by Louis Farrakhan. Using his platform as leader of the Nation of Islam, Farrakhan has preached against people of Jewish faith for several decades and the organization he leads is considered by the Southern Poverty Law Center to be a hate group. Bob Bland (another co-chair) and Tamika Mallory have both denied this version of events, but multiple sources confirmed to Tablet Magazine that it was at this meeting that Perez and Mallory began berating Wruble for her Jewish ancestry. Wruble left the group shortly after in Jan. 2017. She has since founded MarchOn, a group specifically addressing concerns with the Women’s March Inc. such as anti-semitism and bottom-up organizational structure.
Women’s March Inc. has also recently lost its connection with overseas women’s marches, Women’s March International. The group said that it split off mainly because of poor communication from the U.S. based Women’s March Inc., though the controversy surrounding its co-chairs did make the decision easier. Locally, the Oakland Women’s March has not declared its independence from the national Women’s March. Though The BCC Voice found a statement from 2018 addressing anti-semitism, the group has yet to respond to a request for comment. San Francisco’s march issued a statement through its website on Jan. 14 of this year after holding a meeting with several leaders within the SF Jewish Community Center. “Women’s March San Francisco is an autonomous grassroots organization. We arose alongside Women’s March, Inc. (the organizers of the march in Washington), but are — and always have been — run by our own leadership. We develop our own programming and raise our own funds.” The San Francisco march followed up on these promises, featuring Marci Glazer, CEO of the SF Jewish Community Center, as a speaker at their rally on Jan. 19th.
Brianna Sommer was at this year’s Women’s March in Oakland. When The BCC Voice asked about the controversy surrounding the national leadership she said she was unaware, and wanted to do more research before coming to a conclusion. Sommer identifies as Jewish. I asked her if this new information would affect her attendance at future marches. She said “I feel like we are here as women who just want equality. Period. You can’t please everyone, so the rhetoric of other people isn’t a hindrance to me.”
To hear the full story about the Women’s March controversy, read “Is The Women’s March Melting Down” written by Leah McSweeny and Jacob Seigel, pulished in Tablet Magazine on Dec. 10, 2018.