After claims of anti-Semitism against the leaders of Women’s March Inc. rocked the movement—including a blockbuster report in Tablet magazine—hundreds of activist groups that previously partnered with the march have headed for the exits ahead of this year’s events. It may be the biggest silent protest the normally noisy left has staged in decades.
Tali Goldsheft, the Brooklyn photographer who organized a petition calling for the resignation of the march’s leaders, flagged the mass exodus on Twitter. The march’s current partners’ list is missing many of the group’s high-profile partners from 2017, including: the AFL-CIO; the SEIU (and 1199 SEIU, the nation’s largest health-care union); Amnesty International USA; the NAACP; the National Council of Jewish Women; NARAL; EMILY’s List; GLAAD; the Human Rights Campaign; the Southern Poverty Law Center; the National Resources Defense Council; Greenpeace USA; OXFAM; Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense; and the Center for American Progress.
The organizations consciously uncoupling from the march deserve some applause for doing the right thing. After all, three march leaders have been cozy with the notoriously racist minister Louis Farrakhan and his Nation of Islam. Tamika Mallory called Farrakhan “definitely GOAT [Greatest of All Time].” Carmen Perez shared a photo of herself holding hands with him and videos of the minister “speaking truth to power.” Linda Sarsour appeared at a 2015 Nation of Islam event and has claimed anti-Semitism is “different than anti-black racism or Islamophobia because it’s not systemic.”
Moreover, there is little reason to accept the march’s boilerplate denials of the claims lodged against its leaders. Even now, Mallory refuses to condemn Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic vitriol. Also, Women’s March Inc., after trying to take over the 2019 march organized by a local group in New York City, is staging a rival rally hosted by the director of Women’s March NYC—a group that recently touted anti-Semites including author Alice Walker and radical Angela Davis as part of the pantheon of the civil rights movement.
Unfortunately, the applause probably should be limited to two cheers. These groups stopped partnering with the march. Politics being what it is, none of them is ordinarily in the business of publicly criticizing their allies, even when criticism is eminently deserved. A cynical observer still might charitably note that actions speak louder than words. In these polarized times, the discovery of common ground should not be dismissed.
On the other hand, sometimes making a statement may be said to require… making a statement. When the Social Justice League decides not to light their virtue signals, it is difficult not to notice.
In particular, the Southern Poverty Law Center purports to be in the business of warning the public about hate groups, often to the extreme of smearing their political opponents. To its credit, the SPLC lists the Nation of Islam as a hate group, noting that the bile spewed by Farrakhan and others “have earned the NOI a prominent position in the ranks of organized hate.”
Yet when asked to explain why the group stopped partnering with the march, a SPLC spokeswoman could say only that “other projects were a priority.” This sort of dissembling is more cowardly than their colleagues’ silence.
The third cheer should be reserved for those willing to speak truth to progressive power. Actresses Alyssa Milano and Debra Messing publicly disassociated from the march in November due to its leadership’s refusal to renounce Farrakhan. Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, backed them in her personal capacity, and the group is not a 2019 march partner. A raft of other gun control groups, including the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, have also dropped the march while maintaining public relations silence.
That third cheer is especially warranted for those grassroots march groups that have stood against anti-Semitism at the top. For example, the Rhode Island affiliate split from the national organization over the controversy. The state of Washington’s march affiliate dissolved in protest.
The Baton Rouge chapter of the National Organization for Women canceled the New Orleans Women’s March over leadership’s refusal to resign. Women’s March Cleveland has invited members of the National Council on Jewish Women Cleveland and other Jewish women to speak at their march, in a statement rejecting anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry. Women’s March Chicago scrapped this year’s march reportedly over cost concerns, but publicly noted that distancing itself from the national leadership was a “side benefit.”
While the discord within the march has received at least a modicum of coverage from the establishment media, the seeming abandonment by top-tier political groups has been generally ignored. Aside from The Daily Beast and “The View,” the self-appointed (and self-important) guardians of our republic have been as uninterested in asking the former partners for comment as the former partners have been in explaining themselves. Big Media seems far more invested in who sponsors cable news shows than in who sponsors the Women’s March.
Of course, if these supposed watchdogs bestirred themselves to ask these leading lights of liberalism why they are leaving the march in the dark of night, they might also be forced to ask the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Organization for Women, and particularly the Democratic National Committee why they continue to partner with a group that cannot bring itself to disassociate from Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.