‘Growing pains’

Women’s March founder calls on co-chairs to step down over ‘racist, hateful beliefs’

Women's March founder Teresa Shook (Facebook)

The founder of the Women’s March has called on the group’s current leadership to step down over their refusal to condemn Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, a controversial figure whose anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQ views have been thrust into the spotlight in recent months and then again following a horrific mass-shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue. In a Facebook post on Monday, Teresa Shook, a retired lawyer who originally founded the Women’s March, condemned current leaders Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour, and Carmen Perez for failing to uphold the group’s Unity Principles, which hold that all people — not just women — are deserving of “a world that is fair, just and inclusive.”

The current leadership, Shook alleged, “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.”

In response to Shook, Bland, Mallory, Sarsour, and Perez said that the lawyer’s criticism was disingenuous, and accused her of trying “to take advantage of our growing pains to try and fracture our network.”

“Our ongoing work speaks for itself,” the Women’s March Leaders wrote, adding that Shook had only contributed to the movement at the “very beginning” and was now trying “to take credit for our labor.” In another statement, the group said that they “reject anti-Semitism” in all its forms and that they did not “support or endorse statements made by Minister Louis Farrakhan about women, Jewish and LGBTQ communities.”

At root of the controversy was Mallory’s attendance at a Farrakhan speech in February during which he referred to Jews as “Satanic” and as his “enemy.” Mallory, who attended in part because of the support the Nation of Islam provided her family following the death of her son’s father, had defended her attendance at the event by saying she didn’t agree with everything Farrakhan said and that she shouldn’t be held responsible for the controversial minister’s views. But her initial refusal, as well as that of other Women’s March board members Perez, Sarsour, and Bland, to denounce Farrakhan outright have increasingly become a point of tension for the nationwide movement.

Local chapters of the Women’s March have further accused the national group of failing to show adequate support for their own marches. Offshoot groups such as March On, the Women’s March Alliance in New York City, and Women’s March Los Angeles are all also increasingly challenging the national organization — including over their attempt to trademark the phrase, “Women’s March.”

Shook’s public call-out follows a similar move from #MeToo leader and actress Alyssa Milano who announced earlier this month that she was distancing herself from the Women’s March over their failure to “call out and address” bigotry and anti-Semitism.

Read the full story at The Daily Beast.

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