This weekend's Womxn's (née Women's) March might not be the last in Seattle, but it will be the last for the Women+s March Washington State, the statewide organization that was founded in 2017 to help support local groups organizing their own demonstrations.
In December, Angie Beem, the board director of the Washington State Women+s March, announced that the group will be disbanding in response to allegations of anti-Semitism in the national Women's March leadership. While the Seattle Womxn's March has always been independent, Women+s March Washington State has helped organize marches in Olympia, Wenatchee, and Walla Walla, all of which are scheduled to take place this Saturday.
In a statement, Beem said, "Three years ago, I made a promise to myself. I promised that I would unpack my own shit and I would be the best ally I can be. Continuing to be a part of the Women’s March with the blatant bigotry they display would be breaking a promise. We can’t betray our Jewish community by remaining a part of this organization."
Allegations of anti-Semitism and racial tension have dogged the national leadership for months. In December, Tablet reported that the relationship between Women's March leaders Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan was causing tension within the organization. In February 2018, for instance, Mallory was heavily criticized for attending the Nation of Islam's annual Saviour's Day event, in which Farrakhan blamed Jews for "degenerate behavior in Hollywood turning men into women and women into men." He also claimed that Jews control the government.
After Farrakhan's speech, some members of the national organization and statewide groups, including Beem, called for the group to disavow Farrakhan and step down. They refused, and according to Beem, defended Farrakhan and his work in the black community.
Beem says she was quickly cut off by the national group when she voiced her concerns. "Apparently standing up against anti-Semitism isn't a very popular thing to do right now," she told me. Unwilling to continue supporting the national leadership, Beem and her fellow organizers in Washington decided to shut down the statewide group, which, after the coming march, will fold into Smart Politics, a national progressive organization that bills itself as "a nonprofit organization committed to achieving political, social, economic, and environmental justice for all people."
While Beem won't be marching this weekend, she says she hopes it's not the end of the Women's March. "My hope is that the individual cities will continue,'' she says. "What we really need is the larger organizations and companies to stop supporting national and start supporting cities and states instead." And she may get her wish: As of this week, the Democratic National Committee has apparently pulled its support of the national group.
As for the Seattle Womxn's March, there are no plans to disband. The group did not immediately return a request for comment, but in a statement on Facebook, the group says: "We condemn Minister Farrakhan, unequivocally, and we will go further to say that his rhetoric is not just harmful to Jewish and trans people, it’s harmful for our entire movement and all of our liberation. Seattle Womxn marching forward has always, from our inception, included Jewish women in our unity principles and prioritized Jewish voices in our organization. You cannot build a movement of social justice and equity without fighting anti-semitism. Period."