WASHINGTON, DC – Demonstrators are gathering for the Women’s March in Washington and related rallies across the country Saturday, with many of the movement’s supporters looking to channel two years of momentum and common cause against President Donald Trump into progressive policies.
The national Women’s March group was to kick off late Saturday morning at Freedom Plaza in the US capital.
In addition to that march, rallies and demonstrations were to be held across the country by different groups — some affiliated with the national Women’s March Inc. organization and others that aren’t.
It is the third year for the women’s marches. The first, in January 2017, started as a display of resistance to Trump’s election. In 2018, the movement shifted to focus on midterm elections.
The Washington organizers in particular say this year is about not only commemorating victories such as unprecedented wins for the Democratic Party by women of color in the midterms, but also agitating for progressive laws and positions they say will benefit women across race, class, sexual orientation and other identities.
That includes pushing for a policy document they call the “Women’s Agenda,” addressing issues including immigrant rights, violence against women, civil rights and liberties, and climate justice, among others.
“The agenda is specifically focused on legislative and policy actions that are achievable by 2020,” Women’s March Chief Operating Officer Rachel Carmona said.
Jessica González-Rojas, executive director at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, described the agenda as a policy tool that organizers in different cities can use to take on issues that matter to their communities.
What makes it unique is how it takes typically gender-neutral issues such as immigration and offers policy solutions that specifically benefit women and families, she said.
“It’s about looking at different identities among women and femmes and the policy solutions to address attacks on those identities,” she said.
In New York, demonstrators packed part of Foley Square for a “Women’s Unit Rally” on Saturday. Organizers said they aim “to demand equal justice for black women, immigrant women, women of color, and gender nonconforming people.”
Scheduled speakers there include New York City first lady Chirlane McCray, women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem and US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman lawmaker whose following among progressives nationwide has made her one of the most high-profile Democrats in the House.
Concerns about diversity, inclusion and allegations of bigotry
The marches come as concerns about diversity and inclusion have rattled groups across the country. Allegations of bigotry against leaders of Women’s March Inc., the national group formed by organizers of the 2017 march, threaten to overshadow the work of grassroots activists.
One of the national group’s leaders was been criticized in particular for her association with the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Farrakhan, who has led the black nationalist group since 1977, is known for hyperbolic hate speech aimed at the Jewish community, and made remarks such as “the powerful Jews are my enemy” in February.
The group has released numerous statements condemning anti-Semitism and vowing to learn from its missteps through training and discussions — pledges that people associated with the group say are underway.