The Washington Post Sunday

Women’s March to unveil a platform

Shift comes ahead of third event and amid anti-Semitism accusation­s

- BY MARISSA J. LANG

For two years, the Women’s March has cultivated an image: fiery protests, rallies, sit-ins, arrests and women taking to the streets en masse with catchy slogans, chants and songs.

But a month before its rally on the Mall, the group has announced a change in course.

At the Jan. 19 march, the organizati­on plans to unveil a federal policy platform it is calling “the Women’s Agenda” that will outline a 10-prong call to action for lawmakers. The agenda will pinpoint “realistica­lly achievable” priorities, such as raising the federal minimum wage, addressing reproducti­ve rights and violence against women, and passing the long-dormant Equal Rights Amendment, officials said.

“Once we have this platform, we intend to organize around it, to mobilize around it and . . . we will consider it to be marching orders from our movement,” said Rachel O’Leary Carmona, chief operating officer of Women’s March Inc. “And we will bring about swift political consequenc­es to those who oppose us.”

The focus on creating an actionable doctrine comes as the organizati­on is trying to ramp up support for its march amid

accusation­s of anti-Semitism and ongoing controvers­ies surroundin­g Women’s March leaders’ ties to the Nation of Islam and its leader, Louis Farrakhan.

In response, the group has redoubled efforts to reach out to Jewish women and will update its guiding document, known as the “unity principals,” to include explicit support of the Jewish community, O’Leary Carmona said.

“I think anti-Semitism in general and anti-Semitism on the left is a conversati­on that has gone unspoken for a long time,” she said. “And I, for one, am grateful that the Jewish community is willing to step into this dialogue with us.”

It may not be enough to win back some of the group’s most vocal former supporters, who have publicly cut ties with the organizati­on and called for its four co-chairs — Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour — to resign.

O’Leary Carmona said the Women’s March has seen little impact on its reach as a result of the controvers­ies, but the group’s Facebook page has been littered with comments from women around the country saying they will not be attending the January demonstrat­ion.

In an applicatio­n to the National Park Service, organizers estimated more than half a million people would attend.

That is unlikely to happen, said Dana R. Fisher, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland who studies and tracks protest movements.

“I think that something big and bad would have to happen for there to be over 100,000 people in Washington, D.C., this time around,” she said.

The first Women’s March on Washington, on the day after President Trump’s 2017 inaugurati­on, brought hundreds of thousands of demonstrat­ors to the District and inspired solidarity rallies around the globe.

In January this year, following a year of protests and demonstrat­ions against various Trump policies, the D.C. march attracted about 75,000 people, according to Fisher’s data. Those numbers were possibly buoyed by a government shutdown that incensed protesters and enabled several lawmakers to address the crowd.

Fewer than 7,000 people have responded on Facebook to say they are interested in attending the march next month.

The Women’s March announced the shift in focus to its local leaders, who manage the group’s affiliate groups, in a virtual meeting this past week.

“We have big wings — we are very wide right now — but we’re going to be looking at depth in the next couple of years,” O’Leary Carmona said.

The issues the group ultimately will tackle will be determined by about 50 people organized into committees, based on area of expertise. The committees will largely consist of members of Women’s March organizati­ons and partners, including Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, among others.

Once a platform has been created, O’Leary Carmona said, the group will key on raising awareness and support among policymake­rs through its traditiona­l methods of rallies and public demonstrat­ions, as well as more convention­al strategies such as lobbying.

“It’s a policy platform, but it’s also a work plan,” she said.

The idea of transformi­ng the Women’s March into a more traditiona­l political machine stemmed from watching the trajectory of organizati­ons such as Amnesty Internatio­nal and the Podemos political party in Spain, which grew out of inequality protests, O’Leary Carmona said.

But the shift from outside agitators to inside influencer­s is one few organizati­ons have successful­ly pulled off, Fisher said.

“Historical­ly, groups that march in the street don’t tend to start advocating. There have been clear distinctio­ns between groups that are rallying people outside of institutio­nal politics and people who are working within it,” she said. “The Women’s March has shown itself to be extremely good at organizing what I would consider to be kind of confrontat­ional events. They’ve proven that they’re good at that. The idea that now they’re going to shift to advocacy work with some sort of policy platform — I don’t know.”

Fisher said among what sometimes are called resistance groups, formed in the wake of Trump’s election, several are focused on lobbying and have built an infrastruc­ture around that work.

Although the Women’s March intends to train members to become better lobbyists — taking their advocacy from the streets and into Congress — Fisher said the strategy may not be playing to the group’s greatest strength.

“I think that where their relevance lies is continuing to build on their capacity for confrontat­ional politics, and if the Women’s March decides to go in a more institutio­nal direction — pushing an agenda through Congress by lobbying — I think that’s going to be a heavy lift for them,” she said. “Maybe they could pull it off, but it’s a big shift.”

 ?? SALWAN GEORGES/THE WASHINGTON POST ?? An attendee takes a break at the Women’s March in January. The group plans to try more traditiona­l advocacy methods.
SALWAN GEORGES/THE WASHINGTON POST An attendee takes a break at the Women’s March in January. The group plans to try more traditiona­l advocacy methods.

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