In the latest blow to the Women’s March, the movement’s founder publicly called on the group’s current leadership to step down, blaming them for allowing anti-Semitism and “hateful, racist rhetoric” to become a part of the group’s platform.
Teresa Shook, a retired lawyer who introduced the idea for a women’s march in 2016, posted her statement to Facebook on Monday addressing the current leaders of the march. It reads, in part:
Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez of Women’s March, Inc. have steered the Movement away from its true course. I have waited, hoping they would right the ship. But they have not. 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. 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.
Pressure has been mounting on the leadership of the march since February when organizer Tamika Mallory appeared on video at a Nation of Islam event where Louis Farrakhan “interspersed his usual anti-Jewish and homophobic invective with praise of her, while she lodged no protest and posted photos from the event. … Mallory had previously called Farrakhan “the greatest of all time” (“GOAT”). The criticism directed at Mallory and other march leaders like Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez, who were also found to have expressed positive views about Farrakhan started what has become a months-long struggle over the group’s vision and direction.
Last week, the issue was back in the news after the actress Alyssa Milano said she could no longer support the organization. “Any time that there is any bigotry or anti-Semitism in that respect, it needs to be called out and addressed. I’m disappointed in the leadership of the Women’s March that they haven’t done it adequately,” Milano told an interviewer at The Advocate.
Responding to Shook’s call this week for the group’s organizers to step down, another former march leader made her own statement on Facebook. “As an African American and past president of the DC chapter’s Women’s March, I agree with you, Ms. Shook,” wrote Mercy Morganfield, the daughter of blues legend Muddy Waters. “I’d repeatedly denounced Tamika’s anti-Semitic rhetoric in public and private. I was shushed by Bob Bland as she protected Tamika”
Anti-Semitism was not the only problem Morganfield encountered within the organization. “Not only have they not held up the Unity Principles,” she wrote, “they refused to give the chapters any accountability for the money they receive in donations and grants.”
After emerging out of the gate in 2017 as one of the preeminent progressive organizations of the Trump era, the captains of the Women’s March have spent the past year trying to keep their ship upright while steering it between conflicting goals. The march is supposed to be a leading platform for “resistance” feminism and progressive politics, but this keeps smashing up against other priorities held by its leaders, like their refusal to unequivocally renounce Louis Farrakhan and his ideas.
The march leaders issued their own statement Monday in which, after thanking Shook for her “contribution to our movement” they called her comments irresponsible and associated her with unnamed elements “attempting in this moment to take advantage of our growing pains to try and fracture our network.”
Further down in the post the organizers acknowledge, “We are imperfect.”
Jacob Siegel is a senior writer at Tablet and editor of The Scroll.