Local marches across the nation, including Women’s March San Luis Obispo (WMSLO), separated themselves from Women’s March Inc. after two of its leaders were accused of antisemitism and racism.
The national organization largely contributed to the Women’s March on Washington in January 2017 and the event inspired women everywhere to participate in marches for the past two years. According to Women’s March Inc., its mission is “to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change.”
“Going into my first Women’s March in D.C., I had no idea what to expect,” political science freshman Casey Matthews said. “I realized I was about to be a part of something much bigger than I thought. The Women’s March in D.C. was the most loving and accepting environment I’ve ever been in.”
However, one of the original founders, Vanessa Wruble, said otherwise. She said the two other leaders, Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez, said Jews have their own role in racism, according to The New York Times. Wruble said her Jewish heritage is what prompted Mallory and Perez to request her stepping down from her leadership position.
Mallory was also criticized for supporting Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, who has been denounced for anti-Semitic comments.
Before the 2017 march, Women’s March Inc. was criticized for focusing on the interests of white women. Many women announced on social media that they will not be participating in marches due to these various claims.
A post on the Women’s March SLO site published Jan. 6 explains the organization’s involvement with Women’s March California, which does not receive leadership or guidance from Women’s March Inc. Women’s March California additionally does not “have any input on the makeup of their board or their decision making, and we do not receive any monies from them.”
Women’s March California’s website said it does not “tolerate hate speech, bigotry, white supremacy, racism, misogyny, anti-semitism, homophobia, islamophobia, transphobia or any other form of hatred,” and Women’s March SLO follows this agenda.
“We started hearing about this back in early 2018 and started addressing it on our social media to express what we’ve always expressed, which that we are avidly against any form of antisemitism or any kind of bigotry based on religion, race or gender, or any other factors,” WMSLO founder Dawn Addis said. “Women’s March San Luis Obispo has a set of unity principles that we follow.”
Despite the criticism swirling around Women’s March Inc., Addis said she did not have concerns for last weekend’s march in San Luis Obispo.
“We have had extremely positive feedback and our numbers are growing hourly at this point,” Addis said. “I’m checking in on our numbers and seeing them grow rapidly. I don’t have concerns. We have phenomenal feedback.”
Women’s March Inc. made the following statements on its website, “The Women’s March exists to fight bigotry and discrimination in all their forms – including homophobia and antisemitism … It’s become clear, amidst this media storm, that our values and our message have – too often been lost…We should have been faster and clearer in helping people understand our values and our commitment to fighting antisemitism. We regret that.”
“With these accusations, my view of the national organization has slightly shifted in a negative way, but that does not diminish the pride and gratitude I also have for it,” city regional planning sophomore and San Luis Obispo Women’s March attendee Courtney Marchi said. “While I condemn certain leaders of the organization and their remarks towards Jews and women of color, I believe the true meaning of the movement has pure intentions.”