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'I March for All Women': Thousands Gather for Third Women's March After Year of Controversy
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=49984"><span class="small">Samantha Schmidt, Morgan Smith, DeNeen L. Brown and Justin Jouvenal, The Washington Post</span></a>   
Saturday, 19 January 2019 13:35

Excerpt: "Women from across the country were marching through the nation's capital Saturday for the third annual Women's March on Washington, which has been dogged by controversy in the months leading to the event."

People gathered at Freedom Plaza in Washington on Saturday for the Women's March. (photo: Sarah Silbiger/NYT)
People gathered at Freedom Plaza in Washington on Saturday for the Women's March. (photo: Sarah Silbiger/NYT)

'I March for All Women': Thousands Gather for Third Women's March After Year of Controversy

By Samantha Schmidt, Morgan Smith, DeNeen L. Brown and Justin Jouvenal, The Washington Post

19 January 19


omen from across the country were marching through the nation’s capital Saturday for the third annual Women’s March on Washington, which has been dogged by controversy in the months leading to the event.

Organizers weeks ago expected hundreds of thousands to attend — a number similar to the 2017 march the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration — but it appeared thousands had joined the march as the event got underway. A National Park Service permit issued Thursday indicated about 10,000 were expected in Washington as similar marches were planned across the country.

The 2019 march is taking place amid turmoil surrounding the national Women’s March organization, including allegations of anti-Semitism, secretive financial dealings and disputes over who gets to own and define the Women’s March. Some organizers have called for its national co-chairs to resign.

None of that acrimony was on display Saturday as boisterous protesters set off shortly after 11 a.m. on a half-mile march from Freedom Plaza. Some walked behind a banner that read “The Women’s Wave Rises” and chanted “Hey Hey, Ho Ho! White supremacy has go to go!”

The “pink pussy hats” that have become the ubiquitous symbol of the march were perched on many heads as a fresh issue received some attendees’ attention this year: the partial government shutdown that was into its 29th day.

The march route took protesters by the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Some lingered in front of the hotel, turning their signs toward its main entrance. An all-female block of drummers hammered out a thunderous beat and twirled their sticks in unison to cheers from the marchers.

Marchers highlighted a panoply of issues. Some protested Trump’s plan for a border wall, others highlighted reproductive rights and more than one group of marchers called for an end to the Trump administration’s ban on travelers from some majority-Muslim countries.

Stephanie Wesolek, 28, stood beside her 8-year-old son, Blaine, who carried a poster around his neck with the words “Boys will be . . . good humans,” a message she wanted to send to Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

“Little boys need to realize they can’t grow up to be jerks like them,” she said. Her son “needs to see all these people and realize how important this is.”

This was the first year the respiratory therapist was able to get off work for the Women’s March, so she and her son traveled by bus from New Jersey to protest the Trump administration

“I want people to realize just because time goes on, it doesn’t mean it needs less attention,” Wesolek said.

Lily Legler, 63, and friend Marsha Hesany, 61, wore pink cat-eared hats as they blew up balloons of Trump in diapers. They traveled by train from Gainesville, Fla., just as they did for the 2017 march.

“We’re sick of protesting,” Legler said. “It’s appalling.”

Hesany is a lifelong marcher and recalled marching in support of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1982. “And it’s still not ratified!” she said.

Matthew Giedt, 59, a retired school administrator, who lives in San Diego said he planned his trip to Washington to see the “Burning Man” exhibit at the Renwick Gallery, but was thwarted by the government shutdown. He and his wife decided to dedicate their time in Washington instead to “exercising their right to promote getting the government back into operation.”

Giedt carried a sign that said: “Mr. Trump tear down your government shut down.”

He tied the sign to a twig he found outside the Hay Adams and fixed it with a broken shoelace. He wore a pink ribbon in his hat. He said he was impressed with the energy of the women’s march and the lineup of speakers.

Leigh, a 63-year-old federal employee who works in D.C. and lives in Maryland, did not want to give her last name or federal agency. She carried a sign reading: “Furlo’d Fed. I want to work.”

She planned on protesting long before the shutdown, and participated in the 2017 march as well. But the shutdown further motivated her to come out. “It just added to the list of grievances.”

After being out of work for the past month, “it’s nice to feel like I’m doing something.” Earlier at the march, one person saw her sign and stopped her, saying “I’m really sorry you’re stuck in this mess.”

“I just want a government that works, and it’s not working obviously,” Leigh said.

She said she was disappointed by the controversies surrounding the leadership but, “we don’t get anywhere if we’re quieted.”

“We just want to be counted,” she said.

Protesters gathered at 10 a.m. at Freedom Plaza before the march began. The rally — originally planned for the Mall — will resume at 1 p.m. at Freedom Plaza with speakers and performers, then is scheduled to end at 4 p.m.

Hoards of high school students, parents and older protesters headed to Freedom Plaza past the calls of vendors: “Dump Trump! Get your Pink Pussy hats here!” Protesters carried signs that were playful and pointed, including “Wonder Woman in a pink pussy hat,” “Our Rights Are Real,” and “Protect Women.”

Protesters at Freedom Plaza shook signs and danced to music blasting from speakers on a stage as they waited for the march to begin.

A small group of counterprotesters, surrounded by D.C. police, marched toward Trump International Hotel carrying signs that read “America you need to bless God,” “Abortion is murder” and “Islam is a religion of blood and murder.”

At about 9 a.m., dozens of Jewish women and men who planned to join the protest stood at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church for a reading of the Torah, some holding hands and some with their arms around each other’s backs.

The service in the packed church was led by the Jewish Women of Color Coalition, which came together 10 days before the march. They arrived from Wisconsin, Minnesota and Oakland, Calif., to spotlight the voices of Jewish women of color, a group that has straddled both sides of a debate surrounding the Women’s March in recent weeks.

It’s the first time the coalition had participated in the Women’s March, “to talk the difficult talk and celebrate all the allies that have come this morning,” said Rabbi Mira Rivera, who led Saturday morning’s service. “Our liberation is tied to the liberation of all our sisters and siblings and to our capacity to listen, learn, grow and take action together,” Rivera said, speaking at the same pulpit where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once spoke.

Those in the pews were bundled in heavy coats, some wearing pink cat-eared hats, others wearing yarmulkes. They carried signs that read “Proud Jewish woman,” and “I fight for all women, including Jewish women.”

Carrying a colorful banner and a Torah, the group of more than 100 poured out of the church and walked to the march.

“This is what community looks like,” they chanted as others played tambourines and drums. “This is what the Jews look like.”

Sydney Gart, 18, a freshman at American University, snapped photos of the group while carrying a sign reading, “I march for all women, including Jewish women.”

“I’m constantly facing the dilemma of am I a Jewish American or an American Jew,” Gart said. “Which comes first?”

She was torn by recent allegations of anti-Semitism involving Women’s March leadership, but she didn’t want the controversies to keep her from supporting all women. Marching alongside fellow Jewish women seemed like the best option, she said.

“As Jewish women we can’t stand idly by,” Gart said. “This was a great way of showing that we’re strong and were resilient . . . We’re going to march with our Torah, it’s so amazing.”

Several high-profile supporters and progressive organizations declined to participate in the rally this year. Many women who previously went out of their way to attend opted to stay home and support independent groups.

The controversy stems from an incident last winter when an African American co-president of the march attended a Nation of Islam event at which black nationalist Louis Farrakhan made incendiary remarks about Jews.

Since then, the march’s national leadership has tried to quell the outrage — reaching out to the Jewish community, denouncing anti-Semitism, meeting with rabbis and unveiling a new steering committee that includes three Jewish women.

Women’s March leaders this week said they’re taking the fallout in stride. National co-chair Bob Bland said it’s part of the growing pains of building an intersectional movement.

“We unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, and we don’t want anyone to be confused about that,” she said. “We’ve been fighting against the exact type of hate that we have been accused of, and we understand that there is a lot more work to be done before the march, during the march and after the march.”

In a symbolic gesture, Women’s March leaders Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez helped to carry the “Jewish Women of Color” banner at the very front of the march Saturday, beside Rabbi Mira Rivera and other Jewish women singing “we will build this world with love.”

Women’s March leaders on Friday unveiled a 10-prong political platform that the group says will outline “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.

Sister marches were taking place across the country and the world. At a rally in Manhattan’s Foley Square, Leah Maguire, 35, and a friend displayed a “pussy grabs back” sign at their first Women’s March event.

“I couldn’t come last year because I was nine months pregnant, so it’s my first time — but I came for my children’s futures,” said Maguire, of Brooklyn. “My daughter and my son both. My son helped me paint this sign. Thank goodness he can’t read what it says yet.”

Cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Washington also were home to competing marches with groups wanting to deliver a rebuke to the national organization.

The March for All Women in the District’s Pershing Park was announced this week as an alternative to the Women’s March. Another march, which organizers are calling the Inclusive Women 4 Equality for All Rally, begins at 12:45 p.m. near Third Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

The Women’s March follows Friday’s annual March for Life rally and the debut of the Indigenous Peoples Movement protest.

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