Three days before the 2019 Women’s March, organizers announced they had moved to a smaller venue as the third annual march confronts bad weather, a government shutdown and a dramatic drop of support on the left.
The Women’s March said Wednesday it had changed its starting point to Freedom Plaza at the corner of 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue — instead of the National Mall — with plans to march “past the Trump Hotel.”
The Women’s March said it had been required to relocate by the National Park Service due to snow and accused the agency of pressuring the group to cancel the Saturday event, which NPS spokesman Mike Litterst denied as “patently false.”
“Any assertion that the National Park Service has encouraged any organizer to cancel their First Amendment demonstration is patently false,” said Mr. Litterst in an email. “For generations, Americans have come to the National Mall to exercise their Constitutionally-guaranteed rights to assemble and be heard.”
He referred to a Wednesday tweet saying that “NPS wanted us to cancel the march altogether. We told them we were marching with or without their permission, and we secured a permit to march on Pennsylvania Avenue, past the Trump Hotel.”
The Indigenous Peoples March and March for Life are both scheduled for Friday in Washington, D.C.
“Permits for First Amendment demonstrations that are currently being processed include the Indigenous Peoples March, March for Life, and Women’s March,” Mr. Litterst said.
Earlier Wednesday, WTOP reported that, “Organizers said the event is being required to move because of the partial federal government shutdown and because of the possibility of bad weather.”
“However, National Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst said a change in venue came at the request of the organizers,” the station reported.
The forecast Saturday for Washington, D.C., calls for rain as well as temperatures in the 30s.
The last-minute change came as Women’s March leaders undertook an eleventh-hour campaign to repair relations with the Jewish community over allegations of anti-Semitism that have plagued the progressive group for the last year.
Organizers, who have denied the allegations, released a 32-member steering committee that included three Jewish women; announced the support of nine rabbis, and touted the backing of “Jewish women of color.”
National co-chair Carmen Perez also wrote an op-ed for the progressive Jewish publication Forward acknowledging that the leadership “failed to act rapid enough to condemn the egregious and hateful statements made by a figure who is not associated with the Women’s March in any way.”
She was apparently referring to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, described by the Anti-Defamation League as “America’s leading anti-Semite.” Both she and co-chair Tamika D. Mallory have appeared with him in photos and at events, including speaking at a 2015 NOI rally along with co-chair Linda Sarsour.
“The March has evolved over the past few months as we humbly acknowledged our failings,” said Ms. Perez. “I want to be clear: our movement is a safe place for Jewish women, our leadership abhors anti-Semitism and homophobia, and these kinds of comments are and will always be unacceptable.”
The flurry of activity came after a golden public-relations opportunity — an appearance on ABC’s “The View” — backfired when Ms. Mallory refused to condemn Mr. Farrakhan under questioning by co-host Meghan McCain.
A day later, the Democratic National Committee said it would not sponsor the 2019 Women’s March and send no speakers this year’s event, which is themed #WomensWave.
The group has lost at least a dozen partners in the last two weeks. The 2017 Women’s March had more than 500 partners, but the number of those lending their support to this year’s event has dipped to fewer than 200, according to the website.
Adding three Jewish women — Columbia University student Abby Stein, Bend the Arc’s April Baskin, and Yavilah McCoy, founder of Ayecha — to the steering committee was seen as a major olive branch to the Jewish community, although not everyone was impressed.
Nisi Jacobs, founder of WoMen 4 All, a women’s group that specifically decries anti-Semitism, called the effort to win over Jewish women by including several on the steering committee “insulting” and likened the Women’s March to “a jalopy that’s going off a cliff.”
“I don’t know why anyone would get on it at this point, but that’s what people are doing, and they’re going to go down with it,” Ms. Jacobs said.
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