Teresa Shook, founder of the Women’s March, is calling for the the organization’s current leadership to resign, charging that they have allowed “hateful” and “racist” rhetoric to become part of the organization and “because of their refusal to separate themselves” from groups with "anti-Semitic and homophobic sentiments.”
The controversy surrounding the Women’s March arose from co-leader Tamika Mallory’s ties to anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
“Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez of Women’s March, Inc. have steered the Movement away from its true course. I have waited, hoping they would right the ship. But they have not. 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 in a Facebook post on Monday.
In an interview with Haaretz last week, Shook, whose Facebook post following the election of Donald Trump set the Women’s March movement in motion, expressed her misgivings over the controversies inside the March movement, saying that the “rift is too big to heal.”
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The Women’s March criticized Shook’s call in a statement minimizing the Hawaii resident’s role in the movement, charging that she has “weighed in, irresponsibly, as have other organizations attempting in this moment to take advantage of our growing pains to try and fracture our network.”
Shook’s call Monday was applauded by Mercy Morningfield, a regional leader of the Women’s March in Washington, DC. In her comment on Shook’s post, Morganfield, who is African-American, said that she had, in the past, repeatedly criticized Mallory’s ties to Farrakhan, but “was shushed” by leaders who “protected Tamika.” She also charged the leaders of the group with financial irresponsibility and said that not only do they give moral support to the Nation of Islam, but subsidize them by using the group as their security detail.
Controversy over the ties by leaders of the Women’s March to Farrakhan has intensified over the past eight months, after Mallory attended and applauded the Nation of Islam’s annual “Savior’s Day” even in February, where he made anti-Semitic pronouncements.
On October 8, Farrakhan tweeted a video of a speech he delivered, emphasizing the line, “I’m not an anti-Semite. I’m anti-termite.”
On October 30, three days after a gunman killed 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue, Hollywood actress Alyssa Milano was quoted in LGBT magazine The Advocate saying she was “disappointed” in the Women’s March leadership’s continued support of Farrakhan and said without a renunciation of the leaders, she would not address the upcoming march next January. Fellow actress Debra Messing tweeted support of that position.
On the same week, a German NGO, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, suspended plans to give a human rights award to the Women’s March. The award was postponed until after it could “have the matter investigated by an independent party.”
In response to the ongoing criticism, the Women’s March has released a series of statements, most recently on November 8, in which it has declared that while it the group “rejects anti-Semitism and all its forms” and “recognizes the danger of hate rhetoric by public figures” and that “we want to say emphatically that we do not support or endorse statements made by Minister Louis Farrakhan about women, Jewish and LGBTQ communities.”
At the same time, it has said that that it stands by Sarsour and Mallory, who have refused to distance themselves from Farrakhan.
Last week, Sarsour came under fire for invoking dual loyalty over a Facebook post defending Muslim Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar, in which Sarsour slammed “folks who masquerade as progressives but always choose their allegiance to Israel over their commitment to democracy and free speech.”
Jewish advocacy groups and activists who have been publicly criticizing the march cheered Shook’s decision.