The “Women’s March,” first organized in opposition to the election of President Trump, will be returning for the third year, but the organization has been through a lot – driven by divisions in leadership and accusations of bias by some leaders.
In Philadelphia, there will be two, separate Women’s Marches – one organized by the local group that set up marches the past two years running, and another, organized for the first time in Philadelphia by the national organization’s Pennsylvania chapter.
But the Philly activists who helped stage the Women’s March here for the past two years say there’s room for everyone in the women’s movement – and even for two marches at the same time.
“We are all doing it for the same reason and in the same spirit,” said Deja Lynn Alvarez, a board member of Philly Women Rally Inc., which organized the inaugural Philadelphia Women’s March on Jan. 21, 2017.
Attended by an estimated 55,000 people, they held a second march in early 2018 with huge attendance as well.
Philly anti-violence activist Roz Pichardo at the Philly Women’s March in 2017. (Kait Moore)
This year, they’ll be holding their Women’s March again at Eakins Oval across from the Art Museum and marching on the Parkway.
The national Women’s March Pa. chapter didn’t acknowledge the past two years of Women’s Marches in Philly in an announcement of their plans. They mention participating in other social justice protests and rallies, but don’t mention the last two Philly marches, and say the 2019 march is “commemorating the 2017 Women’s March on Washington,” rather than the third in a series.
“The 2017 Women’s March galvanized this country and birthed a new wave of the women’s rights movement,” Women’s March Pennsylvania chair Shawna Knipper said in a statement. “Two years later, we’re taking our movement back to the streets, here in Philadelphia and nationwide. And this time, we’re coming with an agenda.”
The Women’s March Pennsylvania chapter added that they will be promoting a “federal policy platform” dubbed the “Women’s Agenda.”
There was a bit of tension over the division initially, Alvarez acknowledged. She said the national Women’s March organization filed for the permit in Philadelphia that the local group had applied for in previous years.
“There was no communication about that. They did not communicate that with us,” Alvarez said. “We felt like it was pretty shady.”
But after some soul-searching and joint discussions, the two groups agreed to hold non-competitive, parallel marches, Alvarez said.
“It’s been said forever if women ruled the world, there would be no war, there would be no famine, because we communicate better so we needed to make sure we lived up to that,” Alvarez said. “We needed to make sure we’re not coming from the same place that men do, or what takes down other movements, and that is a place of ego.”
“We sat down [with the national group], we had some tea, we had some coffee … we came to an understanding,” she continued. “What we can agree to do is not fight with each other. … As far as I’m concerned, we wish them the absolute best. We don’t have any issue with them, the more the merrier.”
The Women’s March Pennsylvania chapter didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The Philly Women’s March 2018. (HughE Dillon)
Where is the Philly Women’s March?
The Philly Women March Inc.’s Women’s March on Philadelphia 2019 will be held in the area of Eakins Oval by the Art Museum, with a permitted area from the Museum down the Parkway to 22nd Street.
The Women’s March Pennsylvania chapter march will be held in the area of LOVE Park and has a permitted area up the Parkway to 17th Street.
Both events are scheduled to begin around 11 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 19 and conclude around 3 p.m.
From 5 a.m. on Jan. 19 to 5 p.m., road closures will be in effect along and around the Parkway, LOVE Park, and Eakins Oval by the Art Museum. SEPTA bus routes that traverse these roads will be detoured.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Franklin Institute and other sites will still be open despite the marches.
Even if the rallies are separated by a few blocks, they’re motivated by the same spirit, Alvarez asserted.
“If somebody wants to go over to their event and then come to ours, or come to ours then go to theirs, that’s fine,” she said. “In all honesty, the women’s movement has been going on way before all of us. All we’ve ever done is continue it.”
Also in the region, a Women’s March will be held in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The organizers have planned to hold their march at the Historic Boardwalk Hall at the site where Fannie Lou Hamer challenged Jim Crow at the 1964 Democratic Convention, they say. The Atlantic City women’s march will begin at 11 a.m., Jan. 19. on the Boardwalk.
Crowds in Eakins Oval at the Philly Women’s March in 2018. (HughE Dillon)
Nationally, the Women’s March has been riven by intense divisions in recent weeks.
A group in Eureka, California, canceled their march entirely over a self-proclaimed lack of diversity, calling their march “overwhelmingly white,” before re-scheduling.
Issues ranging from differences in direction and leadership, and accusations of bias and anti-Semitism have also roiled the organization, with some local groups disassociating themselves from the national group or disbanding entirely.
One former national Women’s March board member alleged in a Tablet Magazine article that other board members claimed in a leadership meeting that Jews led the American slave trade, an anti-Semitic hoax which has been disseminated by the Nation of Islam and its leader Louis Farrakhan.