A Women’s March group is canceling its January rally in Humboldt County, California, over concerns that its participants would be “overwhelmingly white.”
The decision comes amid division and tension in the broader Women’s March movement, which has unified millions of women and men in protest in the past two years.
Organizers of the 2019 Eureka Women’s March, originally set to take place on Jan. 19, said in a statement that the decision came after numerous conversations with leading local activists and supporters of the march.
“Up to this point, the participants have been overwhelmingly white, lacking representation from several perspectives in our community,” the Facebook statement read. “Instead of pushing forward with crucial voices absent, the organizing team will take time for more outreach.”
The Eureka group, which does not appear to be an official California chapter of the Women’s March, said it was “exploring holding an event in March to celebrate International Women’s Day,” which is celebrated on March 8. It also encouraged local supporters to attend a separate celebration on Martin Luther King Day on Jan. 21.
“Our goal is that planning will continue and we will be successful in creating an event that will build power and community engagement through connection between women that seek to improve the lives of all in our community,” the statement read.
Census Bureau data from July shows that Humboldt County is about 74 percent non-Hispanic white. Eureka Women’s March organizers did not respond to an email and a phone call requesting comment on the decision Sunday morning.
While many of the Facebook group’s members applauded the organizers’ efforts to diversify the rally, others expressed dissatisfaction with the decision.
“Local Organizers have let themselves be duped, What kind of crowd do they expect when you have 77.86% of the population being White?” group member Terri Selfridge commented on the post that announced the cancellation of the march. “Organizers PLEASE RECONSIDER!!!”
This is not the first time the Women’s March movement has faced questions about its racial makeup and inclusiveness. Excitement in the months leading up to the inaugural march in 2017 was damped by divisive discussions about race – particularly involving minority women and how issues important to them sometimes differed from those of their white counterparts.
In recent months, the Women’s March has tried to quell controversy surrounding its leadership. Some regional chapters have distanced themselves from the national group and its leaders, who have been called to step down over ties with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and accusations of anti-Semitism.
In a November Facebook post, Women’s March founder Teresa Shook called for the resignations of national co-chairs Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour, adding that they have “steered the Movement away from its true course.”
Mallory, in particular, was criticized after she attended the Nation of Islam’s annual Saviours’ Day event in Chicago this year, at which Farrakhan made statements about “powerful Jews” he considered his enemies.
“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,” Shook wrote. ” 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 Women’s March will return to Washington and other cities on Jan. 19.
The Washington Post’s Marissa Lang contributed to this report.
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