In the wake of accusations of anti-Semitism and a failure to trademark the words “women’s march,” the group behind the wildly successful Women’s March on Washington in 2017 is cutting ties with some of its bold-faced names and recommitting to its agenda ahead of 2020.
Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory, and Linda Sarsour all left their roles as board co-chairs of the Women’s March advocacy group on July 15, the Washington Post reported Monday. Carmen Perez, another of the board’s most high-profile members, is staying on, and 16 new people will be joining her.
The new board hopes to champion an agenda that will prioritize protecting women’s reproductive rights and passing the Equal Rights Amendment, the Post reported. They also want to rebuild the group’s relationships with its local chapters. After leaders of the Women’s March tried to trademark its name, many of the people who organized satellite rallies for the 2017 march ended up distancing themselves from the Women’s March. They reportedly feared having to pay fees or follow rules set by its main leaders.
“Most of us are new to this,” Ginna Green told the Post. Green is a new Women’s March board member who works for the liberal Jewish advocacy group Bend the Arc. “We don’t have any relationship with the state chapters. I think we’re open to make sure we’re building the right movement for everyone.”
The departing leaders of the Women’s March had also dealt with allegations that they had either made anti-Semitic comments or defended or associated with people who had. Mallory, in particular, came under fire for her support of the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who once compared Jews to termites and has been repeatedly accused of being anti-Semitic.
Last November, Theresa Shook, who first proposed the idea of a women’s march, even called on Bland, Mallory, Sarsour, and Perez to step down. “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.
The Women’s March leaders have denied allegations of anti-Semitism, and the group has said it works to fight bigotry of all kinds.
Mallory didn’t reply to the Post’s requests for comment over the Monday news, but Sarsour told the paper that the new board is “AMAZING.” Bland said that the leadership of the Women’s March had planned the changes for a while.
The new Women’s March board will gather for the first time this month, according to the Post. It will then formally replace Bland and Mallory, who are co-presidents of the Women’s March.
The board will also help organize an anti-Brett Kavanaugh protest in Washington, D.C. for early next month, where protesters will highlight Kavanaugh’s “work to overturn Roe v. Wade,” as the organizers put it to the Post.
“The priority for me is really dealing with the very serious consequences of what the president and his administration is doing and causing,” Lucy Flores, another new board member, told the Post. Flores, who previously worked as a Nevada state representative, now works on the Latina empowerment organization Luz Collective; she has also publicly alleged that 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden gave her an unwanted kiss years ago. “Once we’re in the general [election], the number one priority will be to defeat Trump, and we will do whatever it takes.”
In a statement, the Women's March said that it had not "cut ties" with Bland, Mallory, and Sarsour; instead, their terms as board members for the nonprofit have simply ended.
"As with any organization that has a governing board, there are set term limits imposed upon its members," the organization said. "Our inbound board members represent a truly diverse swath of women who have fought and will continue to fight tirelessly for women’s equal rights."
Cover: This March 8, 2017, file photo shows civil rights leader and activist Linda Sarsour, far left, during the International Women's Day rally and sit-down protest outside Trump International Hotel at Columbus Circle, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)