The leadership of the Women's March has come under fire from some of the group's once most vocal supporters, including the woman who founded the group and actresses Alyssa Milano and Debra Messing. The embattled leaders have since responded to criticism with an "intersectionally" loaded statement blasting its critics.
Earlier this year, feminist Tali Goldsheft launched a Change.org petition calling on the leadership of the Women's March ― Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez ― to resign, citing their affiliation with and refusal to condemn notorious racist, bigot, and anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan.
"Many feminists refused to join the Women’s March because they did not feel comfortable with the current leadership," the petition reads. "Now, Women’s March participants also no longer feel represented by this organization due to the behavior of its current leadership. We, as supporters of women’s rights, donated to this organization, promoted it, and went on to march once again on January 20, 2018. We REFUSE to march behind leaders who support an open anti-Semite. We REFUSE to march behind leaders who defend those affiliated with an open anti-Semite. We DEMAND new leadership."
The petition, which has earned about 5,000 signatures, got a high-profile boost two weeks ago when Milano and Messing both disavowed the Women's March due to its current leadership.
On Monday, Women's March founder, Teresa Shook, added her voice to the growing chorus of feminists calling on Bland, Mallory, Sarsour and Perez to step down for allowing "bigotry, racism, anti-LGBT sentiment and anti-Semitism to become "part of the platform." After explaining her original intent for the group, Shook wrote in a Facebook post:
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.
The four leaders have since responded to Shook's post with a loaded statement, which begins by stressing that the group has now transitioned into "one led by women of color" (Bland is white), blasting her criticism of their leadership as "irresponsible," and suggesting that "armchair" critics should stop trying to "take credit for our labor":
We want to thank Teresa Shook for her contribution to our movement, creating a Facebook event named the Million Women’s March. That was the very beginning of the Women’s March, which grew from a Facebook event into the largest single-day protest in US history, one led by women of color.
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. 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. They have not done the work to mobilize women from diverse backgrounds across the nation.
We are imperfect. We don’t know everything and we have caused harm. At times we have responded with hurt. But we are committed to learning. We will continue to work through the good and the bad, the impact and the harm — of building an intersectional movement that our daughters, and our daughters’ daughters can be proud of.
We are grateful for people who HAVE been with us for the past two years, wrestling with the challenges and opportunities of what we are trying to build. Our ongoing work speaks for itself. That’s our focus, not armchair critiques from those who want to take credit for our labor.
The criticism of the four leaders stems from the affiliation of Mallory, Sarsour, and Perez with Farrakhan and their subsequent refusal, along with Bland, to condemn his hateful rhetoric. Here's the case laid out by the Change.org petition calling for their resignation titled "Don’t Sponsor Hate: Women’s March Leaders Must Resign":
- Now more than ever, women need to unite against hate. The Women’s March, Inc. organization has become an essential part of the feminist movement. As feminists, we are passionate about the force behind this movement and its significance. More than 2.6 million people participated in what was the largest protest in US history on January 21, 2017. We built it. We should decide who steers it. We are aware that many separate grassroots groups participated on that day who are not connected to Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour, Bob Bland, or Carmen Perez. However, the march itself was organized under the umbrella of Women’s March, Inc. and we must purge it of hate.
- President of Women's March DC, Mercy Morganfield released the following statement on March 10, 2018: “If the actions of our leaders are not aligned with the Unity Principles, then the leaders should reassess their leadership roles in Women’s March and the greater women’s rights movement.”
- Leaders of an organization which, according to its Unity Principles, claims to “believe that Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights” MUST NOT support or defend those who support someone like Louis Farrakhan, who is not only a rabid anti-semite but also has a history of misogyny, homophobia and transphobia.
- Recently, we have become aware of three of these four Women’s March, Inc. leaders’ reprehensible affiliations with the Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan.
- Upon receiving backlash regarding the Women’s March co-President Tamika Mallory’s recent attendance at a Farrakhan rally where she personally received a shout-out, co-President Bob Bland, along with treasurers Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour have been defensive of Mallory.
- All four leaders will not directly condemn Farrakhan’s extremely anti-semitic speech or disavow any relationship with him.
- Mallory, Sarsour, and Perez have publicly praised and been photographed with Farrakhan; Mallory has admitted to attending Farrakhan’s hate-filled speeches for the past thirty years, including this year.
- We have yet to hear from the Women’s March, Inc. sponsors listed below in regards to funding an organization run by leaders who are morally bankrupt. How can SPLC sponsor an organization made up of leaders who are affiliated with the Nation of Islam, which SPLC classifies as a hate group? It’s time for these sponsors to take a stand and separate themselves from an organization that has been tainted by hate. Until these leaders step aside and allow new leaders to take their place, sponsorship should be removed.
The petition also links to an article titled "Everything You Need To Know About Anti-Semitism In The Women's March."
Among the organizations listed by the petition that sponsor the Women's March are the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Planned Parenthood, the Natural Resource Defense Council, Emily's List, NARAL, and the ACLU.
The petition also provides the following updates since it first launched, including Milano and Messing disavowing the group:
11/12/2018: “The think tank for the German social democratic party withdrew its Human Rights Award to the Women's March USA on Thursday: ‘We believe that the Women's March USA does not meet the criteria of this award, as its organizers have repeatedly attracted attention through antisemitic statements, the trivialization of antisemitism and the exclusion of Zionists and Jews since Women's March USA establishment in 2017. Women's March USA does not constitute an inclusive alliance.’”
11/09/2018: Alyssa Milano and Debra Messing are both no longer supporting the Women's March due to its anti-Semitic leadership.
6/11/2018: Tamika Mallory has been kicked out of a major social policy conference in Australia after her recent statements which called the creation of the State of Israel a "Human Rights crime."
“Tamika Mallory’s enthusiastic public praise for Louis Farrakhan, a notorious anti-Semite … makes her a dubious choice to speak about inclusion and social justice,” he said.
5/15/2018: Tamika Mallory has now joined Linda Sarsour in defending terrorist group Hamas and their deadly use of human shields. When responding to a tweet which said, “It takes a special kind of evil to sacrifice your people for the camera,” she tweeted: “Or bravery! Depends on how you look at it!”
4/27/2018: Due to the attacks by Women's March leaders below, ADL has been bullied into no longer leading the Starbucks anti-bias training. NAACP, Equal Justice Initiative, and Demos are now the only organizations leading the training.
4/18/2018: New anti-Semitic attacks by Women's March leaders! Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour are now attacking the Anti-Defamation League (an international Jewish non-governmental organization) with the following false statements, continuing to spread their anti-Semitic hate far and wide:
"The ADL is CONSTANTLY attacking black and brown people. This is a sign they are tone deaf and not committed to addressing the concern of black folks. Be clear about what's happening here!" - @tamikadmallory
"Starbucks almost had me on their anti-bias training for all employees UNTIL I heard ADL was enlisted as one of the orgs to build their anti-bias curriculum. An anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian organization that peddles islamophobia and attacks America’s prominent Muslim orgs and activists and supports/sponsors US law enforcement agents to travel and get trained by Israeli military." - Linda Sarsour via Facebook
"I don’t know which one is more disappointing, @Starbucks bringing on @ADL_National or @ADL_National agreeing to do the anti-bias training when this directly impacts black folks! There R great black organizations & people who can conduct this training! @ADL_National not good!" - @msladyjustice1 (Carmen Perez)