2018 Women's March photo for Gambit

Protesters march down Rampart Street during the 2018 New Orleans Women's March.

Over the last two years, millions of women, including thousands in New Orleans, took to the streets to protest the election of President Donald Trump and threats to women’s health care while demanding racial and economic justice in the face of the growing right.

After reports alleged anti-Semitism among some national organizers, the Louisiana chapter behind the Women’s March in New Orleans has canceled its January event set for Jan. 19, following several other chapters around the U.S. that also have distanced themselves from national Women’s March leadership.

Organizers say the growing costs of the events — from police escorts and permits to portable toilets, sound systems and insurance, all of which totaled more than $12,000 — outpaced fundraising efforts in the wake of the controversies. A fundraising campaign raised only $600 over several months.

In recognition of Women’s History Month in March, local organizers instead will plan a statewide “listening tour” and roundtable discussions “in as many cities and towns as we can,” National Organization for Women’s Baton Rouge president Angela Adkins told Gambit. The events will “listen to women in our state, find out what their concerns are and what they would like to see moving forward,” she said.

In a statement posted to social media Dec. 29, NOW’s Baton Rouge Chapter, which co-organized the New Orleans events, said the controversy is “dampening efforts of sister marches to fundraise, enlist involvement, find sponsors and attendee numbers have drastically declined this year.”

Organizers said they plan to “re-organize and re-evaluate the momentum that the Women’s March gave all of us the first two years.”

“It is important for everyone to reach out into our local communities and find ways to get involved in the meantime,” the statement says. “There are many advocacy groups doing great work in our state that should be supported with your time and money.”

NOW's national office said it will "withhold direct financial support until the current questions regarding leadership are resolved."

On Dec. 23, The New York Times reported a rift among Women’s March organizers and the scheduling of two marches in New York this month — one hosted by a group stressing its leadership of women of color, and another affiliated with March On, co-founded by a former Women’s March organizer who left the national group alleging anti-Semitism among other organizers.

The allegations against Women's March Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez and Palestinian-American Linda Sarsour follow praise for the movement from controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, whose comments also condemned Jews. The organization denounced his remarks, but critics said its response should have come sooner and called for the resignation of the group's leadership. The controversy also has ignited debate among Women’s March attendees, conflating criticism of Israel’s occupation of Palestine with anti-Semitism. Members also have called for the resignation of Mallory and Perez, who are not white, fueling criticism of the march’s membership as a largely white body that has sidelined intersectional feminism and politics.

"The Women’s March exists to fight bigotry and discrimination in all their forms — including homophobia and anti-semitism — and to lift up the voices of women who are too often left out," Sarsour wrote in a November statement. "We should have been faster and clearer in helping people understand our values and our commitment to fighting anti-semitism. We regret that. Every member of our movement matters to us — including our incredible Jewish and LGBTQ members. We are deeply sorry for the harm we have caused, but we see you, we love you, and we are fighting with you."

NOW Baton Rouge has served as the state’s legal entity for the local event, with Women’s March New Orleans as an umbrella coalition for city- and statewide groups focused on women’s health, social justice and civil rights.

Adkins says local organizing efforts have grown from a handful of partner groups at the first march in 2017 to more diversity in the planning team and more than a dozen other groups that planned to join 2019 events.

More than 10,000 people marched in New Orleans at the first event in 2017. The 2018 event centered women of color and transgender women, as well as low-wage workers and currently and formerly incarcerated women.

“Moving forward we’re looking at making sure the march reflects the people of New Orleans, the women of New Orleans, and if we have other marches in the state, reflecting those places as well,” Adkins said.

But Adkins and organizers make clear that organizing behind women’s issues and intersectional battles doesn’t stop at the march. In lieu of a march, organizers encourage advocates and allies to “reach out, volunteer and donate your money,” as organizers cross promote the events and efforts of partner groups and other organizations.

“This is how you make change. We have to turn our marching into action,” Adkins said. “If 10,000 people go out and volunteer one or two hours a week, that’s a lot of activism and a lot of work that can go out into changing our communities.”