First, two high-profile liberal actors broke from the national Women's March because of a pattern of anti-Semitism involving march leaders. Then a number of local Women's March organizers either broke with the group or made it clear that they operated independently after a Tablet investigation provided detailed accounts of the anti-Semitism repeatedly exhibited among March leaders Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez. The story also uncovered some questionable financial structures established after the leadership pushed other founders aside.
The National Organization for Women (NOW), perhaps the most prominent feminist organization in the country, announced Friday that it would no longer provide financial support to the Women's March "until the current questions regarding leadership are resolved."
A petition urging March leaders to step down has gathered more than 8,000 signatures.
NOW is not fully severing ties. It "will participate and organize members to attend the March" on Jan. 19, the statement said. But the announcement remains significant as the first major sponsor to cut financial support.
The controversy took off last spring when Mallory and Sarsour would not condemn an anti-Semitic sermon by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, whom both have praised in the past. Sarsour followed that up by giving a speech saying the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group, was liable for police shootings of unarmed black people in America.
The Tablet investigation described an "organizational structure ... [involving] complicated financial arrangements, confusing even to experts."
In early meetings, Mallory and Perez denounced Jewish wealth, the Tablet reported. Its story said the two women argued that "Jewish people bore a special collective responsibility as exploiters of black and brown people." It also indicated that, in addition to supporting anti-Semitic, anti-gay Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, the Women's March has turned to the Nation to provide security. That means donor money from groups like NOW might have gone to the Nation of Islam.
The New York Times published an account similar to the Tablet investigation on Sunday. In trying to claim that she and her colleagues condemn anti-Semitism, however, Mallory told the paper "white Jews, as white people, uphold white supremacy" even if "ALL Jews are targeted by it."
There won't be a march next month in Chicago, which organizers canceled altogether. State marches in Washington and Rhode Island also broke from the national Women's March, the Chicago Tribune reported. In Houston, organizers changed their name to "Houston Women March On."
"We believe no universe exists in which it is acceptable to support anti-Semitism, racism, or discrimination against LGBT people," a statement explaining the name change said.
The national Women's March still enjoys support from dozens of sponsors and partners, including Planned Parenthood, Emily's List, the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign, Moveon.org and some prominent unions. NOW's cutting of financial support may break the ice for others to follow, or they, like Planned Parenthood, might defiantly continue to align with the march's problematic leaders.