Women’s March lead­ers ac­cused of ‘zero ac­count­abil­ity’ Far­rakhan ties too much for fem­i­nists

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

For Nisi Ja­cobs, the fi­nal straw was when Women’s March co-leader Tamika Mal­lory re­ceived a shoutout in Fe­bru­ary from Na­tion of Is­lam leader Louis Far­rakhan at his Saviours’ Day speech.

A week later, Ms. Ja­cobs helped start fem­i­nist ad­vo­cacy group All 4 Women as charges of big­otry and anti-Semitism roiled the lead­er­ship team of Ms. Mal­lory, Bob Bland, Car­men Perez and Linda Sar­sour.

“We formed … in March 2018 very much in re­sponse to the ho­mo­pho­bia, trans­pho­bia, anti-Semitism and misog­yny of Far­rakhan’s preach­ing that was be­ing nor­mal­ized by Women’s March lead­ers,” Ms. Ja­cobs said.

Even as the Women’s March cel­e­brates pro­gres­sive gains in the Nov. 6 elec­tions and pre­pares for its third an­nual march on Wash­ing­ton Jan. 19, the fu­ture of the 2-year-old protest be­he­moth has never been more in doubt.

The tur­moil came to a head a when founder Teresa Shook called on the lead­ers to re­sign, say­ing they had “al­lowed an­tiSemitism, anti-LBGTQIA sen­ti­ment and hate­ful, racist rhetoric to be­come a part of the plat­form.”

Mercy Mor­gan­field, who once ran Women’s March DC, fol­lowed up with a dev­as­tat­ing cri­tique ac­cus­ing the four lead­ers of pro­vid­ing “zero ac­count­abil­ity” on the prodi­gious fundrais­ing while stay­ing in five-star ho­tels with a “glam squad” of fam­ily, friends and a Na­tion of Is­lam se­cu­rity de­tail.

Ms. Mor­gan­field, a daugh­ter of blues leg­end Muddy Wa­ters, said she re­peat­edly de­nounced Ms. Mal­lory’s “anti-Semitic rhetoric in pub­lic and pri­vate,” but “I was shushed by Bob Bland as she pro­tected Tamika.”

“They are not only non­in­clu­sive of cer­tain seg­ments of women, but Tamika and Linda have be­trayed all women by their sub­servience to rad­i­cal re­li­gious be­liefs that do not be­lieve in equal rights for women,” Ms. Mor­gan­field said in a Face­book post.

Mean­while, Hol­ly­wood ac­tresses Alyssa Mi­lano and De­bra Mess­ing have in­di­cated that they may skip the sig­na­ture march on Wash­ing­ton over anti-Semitism con­cerns.

Ms. Mal­lory, who said she has at­tended Na­tion of Is­lam events since she was a child, posted a photo of her­self and Mr. Far­rakhan from 2015 call­ing him the “GOAT,” for “great­est of all time.” Ms. Perez and Ms. Sar­sour also have praised and ap­peared with Mr. Far­rakhan.

At the Feb. 25 speech at­tended by Ms. Mal­lory, Mr. Far­rakhan de­clared that “pow­er­ful Jews are my en­emy.” The An­tiDefama­tion League has called Mr. Far­rakhan “one of the lead­ing anti-Semites in the United States.”

The Women’s March has is­sued mul­ti­ple state­ments in re­cent months de­nounc­ing anti-Semitism and Mr. Far­rakhan’s com­ments with­out specif­i­cally con­demn­ing the Na­tion of Is­lam leader.

“We have been CLEAR that Min­is­ter Far­rakhan has said hate­ful and hurt­ful things and that he does not align with our Unity Prin­ci­ples of the Women’s March that were cre­ated by Women of Color,” Ms. Sar­sour said in a state­ment. “Min­is­ter Far­rakhan will tell you him­self that he does not be­long to nor ad­here to our pro­gres­sive move­ment or yours.”

She par­tially blamed white supremacy. “As a Mus­lim, I know all too well that I am ex­pected to an­swer for other Mus­lims’ ac­tions when white folks never have a se­cond thought about hav­ing to do that — this is a fea­ture of white supremacy.”

Even so, Ms. Ja­cobs and other fem­i­nists who once en­thu­si­as­ti­cally sup­ported the Women’s March in­creas­ingly are mak­ing the break.

‘Mean girls’

Her New York City-based or­ga­ni­za­tion be­longs to a coali­tion led by March On, founded by sev­eral or­ga­niz­ers of the high-pro­file 2017 and 2018 protests who split from the Women’s March over is­sues with the lead­er­ship.

One re­cur­ring prob­lem: The groups are of­ten con­fused with the Women’s March — and not in a good way.

All 4 WoMen, orig­i­nally was called Women’s March for All, “but we had to change our name be­cause we were be­ing at­tacked for be­ing anti-Semitic for eight straight months be­cause peo­ple didn’t read the ‘for all’ after it,” Ms. Ja­cobs said.

Kather­ine Siemionko, founder of the Women’s March Al­liance, which has or­ga­nized the New York City marches for two years, said she lost nearly 5,000 fol­low­ers this month over anti-Semitism in a case of mis­taken iden­tity.

“We get hate mail daily, no mat­ter how much we post out that we have no cor­re­la­tion to [the Women’s March],” said Ms. Siemionko. “It’s like Coca-Cola and Pepsi. We’re get­ting the back­lash for some­body else’s com­pany.”

March On and the Women’s March Al­liance is­sued state­ments em­pha­siz­ing that they are sep­a­rate from the Women’s March.

Is the Women’s March dam­ag­ing the pro­gres­sive women’s move­ment?

“They are ab­so­lutely hurt­ing,” Ms. Siemionko said. “It’s very un­for­tu­nate.”

After Ms. Shook called for their res­ig­na­tions, the Women’s March lead­ers fired back on Face­book by slam­ming “arm­chair cri­tiques from those who want to take credit for our la­bor.”

“To­day, Teresa Shook weighed in, ir­re­spon­si­bly, as have other or­ga­ni­za­tions at­tempt­ing in this mo­ment to take ad­van­tage of our grow­ing pains to try and frac­ture our net­work,” the state­ment said. “Groups that have ben­e­fited from our work but refuse to or­ga­nize in ac­cor­dance with our Unity Prin­ci­ples clearly have no in­ter­est in build­ing the world our prin­ci­ples en­vi­sion.”

The re­sponse drew a heated back­lash on so­cial me­dia from lib­er­als who ac­cused the lead­er­ship of harm­ing the fem­i­nist cause.

“You need to re­sign and let other peo­ple take over the next phase of the move­ment,” ad­ver­tis­ing ex­ec­u­tive Josephine Son said on Face­book. “You are do­ing more dam­age to this group by be­ing so ob­sti­nate. Sham­ing women for speak­ing their minds, how dare you!”

Kathryn Xian, a spokes­woman for Ms. Shook, a re­tired lawyer who lives in Hana, Hawaii, de­scribed the four as “mean girls.”

“They tried to min­i­mize [Ms. Shook], they tried to im­ply that she doesn’t have a part to play in this move­ment that she started,” Ms. Xian said. “It’s su­per brave of her to just take a stand be­cause they are a group of mean girls, and she’s just an ag­ing grand­mother who’s liv­ing in the boonies of Hana.”

Ms. Sar­sour sought to mit­i­gate the dam­age with a more con­cil­ia­tory post prais­ing “our in­cred­i­ble Jewish and LGBT mem­bers” and apol­o­giz­ing “for the harm we have caused.”

“It’s be­come clear, amidst this me­dia storm, that our val­ues and our mes­sage have — too of­ten — been lost,” said Ms. Sar­sour. “That loss caused a lot of harm, and a lot pain. We should have been faster and clearer in help­ing peo­ple un­der­stand our val­ues and our com­mit­ment to fight­ing anti-semitism. We re­gret that.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

Fem­i­nists filled In­de­pen­dence Av­enue last year for a Women’s March on Wash­ing­ton. For some ac­tivists, the march’s lead­ers (in­set) in­clud­ing Tamika Mal­lory (right), Car­men Perez (left) and Linda Sar­sour are too close for com­fort to Na­tion of Is­lam leader Louis Far­rakhan.

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