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Overcoming division, thousands of women take to the streets for third annual Women’s March

January 21, 2019 By Liliana Bernal Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Hundreds of women gathered in Foley Square to protest the Trump administration and stand up for gender and minority rights. Eagle photos by Paul Frangipane

Despite the controversy and fragmentation that marked the Women’s March movement this year, thousands of women took to the streets on Saturday with a message that was supported across the board: stand up for gender and minority rights.

In a demonstration on the Upper West Side, thousands of marchers faced the cold morning, flooding about 10 city blocks with pink hats, witty signs and eye-catching costumes. Meanwhile, downtown, hundreds gathered for a rally in Foley Square led by the New York chapter of the Women’s March Inc., the organization responsible for the first Women’s March in Washington, D.C., in 2017.

Some demonstrators were decked out in costumes to help spread their messages.
Some demonstrators were decked out in costumes to help spread their messages.

The uptown march, led by the Women’s March Alliance, a grassroots organization that holds a city permit for the event, did not collaborate with Women’s March Inc. because of previous allegations of anti-Semitism against the latter group.

Some attendees called the division “disappointing,” wishing the march could have been organized into one event.

A protester stands in the crowd at Foley Square.
A protester stands in the crowd at Foley Square.

“When you’re fighting against people that are in power right now, you need to reduce the amount of criticism that you get from them,” said high school junior Kate Murray. “We all want to be together. We all want to be a strong front, and by dividing ourselves, we reduce our level of impact.”

In Foley Square, Women’s March NYC director Agunda Okeyo emphasized the plurality of the group.

A group of counterprotesters set up across the street from the Foley Square rally.
A group of counterprotesters set up across the street from the Foley Square rally.

“This moment was put together by a coalition of multiracial, various religions, various genders, various disabilities, various identities — a whole coalition of people made this moment happen,” Okeyo said.

At one point, a woman ran onto the stage yelling, “What about the Jews?” and tried to take the microphone. “The Women’s March does not represent Jewish people. The Women’s March is the real Nazi march,” the counterprotester added before being escorted off the stage.

The crowds at the Women’s March rally in Foley Square.
The crowds at the Women’s March rally in Foley Square.

“We’re not going to do this today,” Okeyo quickly responded. “What we’re doing today is that we’re gonna uplift each other and we’re gonna make sure we stay positive.”

Women’s March has faced accusations of anti-Semitism since its establishment. In response, the group has issued a series of statements condemning race-discrimination. However, the more allegations came up one week prior to Saturday, when group leader Tamika Mallory refused to condemn the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic words on a television interview.

A counterprotester is escorted offstage after running up and yelling to the crowd. Left:  Women’s March NYC director Agunda Okeyo.
A counterprotester is escorted offstage after running up and yelling to the crowd. Left:
Women’s March NYC director Agunda Okeyo.

Some signs at the rally, like one that read, “I’m here to renounce the anti-Semitism and still support the movement,” made it evident that some attendees were well aware of the controversy.

“You can be supportive of the Palestinians’ rights and not be anti-Semitic, and you can be supportive of Black Lives Matter and not be anti-Semitic,” said protester Judy Loebl.

A man in the crowd at the Foley Square rally.
A man in the crowd at the Foley Square rally.

Loebl, who lives in Brooklyn and chose to attend the rally at Foley Square rather than the march on the Upper West Side, said she thinks “right-wing forces” are trying to split the movement with false accusations.

Waving an Israeli flag and holding signs that read “The anti-Semite march” or “Thank God for Trump,” a small group of counterprotesters disrupted the downtown rally.

A woman looks out over the crowd in Foley Square.
A woman looks out over the crowd in Foley Square.

“I am a patriot and a Zionist; I am here to stand up for my country here and my country Israel,” said attendee Karen Braun.

Despite the tension, demonstrators focused on the spirit of sisterhood and celebrated the movement’s achievements, cheering on the record 131 women now serving in Congress as well as the youngest woman to ever be elected to Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Kate Murray attended the march on the Upper West Side, but called the division of the marches “disappointing.”
Kate Murray attended the march on the Upper West Side, but called the division of the marches “disappointing.”

New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray urged the demonstrators to keep the action going by registering more women to vote, calling lawmakers in Albany to demand the protection of women and non-binary peoples’ rights, running for office and encouraging other women to run.

“We know this is more than a moment. This is a movement,” McCray said.

Demonstrators at the uptown march dressed in a group costume.
Demonstrators at the uptown march dressed in a group costume.

March leaders also announced the soon-to-be-released policy platform called the Women’s State of the State, intended to push progressive legislation.

After both events ended, a smaller gathering took place inside Grand Central Terminal, where advocates and supporters of people living with disabilities protested President Donald Trump’s policies and called for inclusivity for people with disabilities.

After both of the day’s events ended, protesters met inside Grand Central Terminal to rally for the rights of people with disabilities.
After both of the day’s events ended, protesters met inside Grand Central Terminal to rally for the rights of people with disabilities.

“Disability rights are human rights,” said group leader Jennifer Bartlett, who put together the so-called “non-march.” Bartlett decided to organize the event when she realized the Women’s March wasn’t focused on people with disabilities or on highlighting disability identity.

A woman carries her sign at the end of the uptown march.
A woman carries her sign at the end of the uptown march.

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