Marking the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment acknowledging women’s right to vote, tens of thousands of women will gather in Los Angeles and other cities across the country Saturday to advocate for equal rights and other issues as part of the fourth annual Women’s March.
Since the first worldwide demonstration in 2017, coming the day after President Trump’s inauguration, organizers of the march have struggled with their own leadership issues.
Three of the four original founders – Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour – stepped down in September, following reports of infighting, money mismanagement and controversy over their attendance at events hosted by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who had made anti-Semitic remarks.
The outrage led several groups to withdraw their support, including the Democratic National Committee and EMILY’s List, and prompted organizers at sister marches throughout the country, including Los Angeles, to define their separation from the national organization.
“We have been our own separate entity from Day One – our own nonprofit, our own board. We are self-funded,” said Emiliana Guereca, president of Women’s March Foundation. But the group in Los Angeles now has an “open line of communication” with Women’s March Inc. and will work together when necessary. “There’s no time for infighting. Women’s rights are under attack.”
Despite the controversy, large crowds are expected to turn out for demonstrations across the country this weekend. In Los Angeles, thousands are expected to gather downtown, congregating at Pershing Square before marching to City Hall for a two-hour program featuring speakers that include Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters and Karen Bass of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, attorney Gloria Allred and activists Caitlyn Jenner and Ta’Rhonda Jones, among others. There will also be performances by Adrienne Bailon, Ray Chew, Jennifer Lewis, Seal and Jordin Sparks.
“We’re expecting about half a million people to show up to downtown Los Angeles. We are expecting a nice day of female empowerment,” Guereca said. “We do expect a lot of people to take to the streets because it’s critical we do raise our voices for 2020.”
Walk for Life, an antiabortion demonstration, is also scheduled Saturday in downtown Los Angeles. The noontime march, sponsored by OneLife L.A., will run from Olvera Street to Los Angeles State Park. Cyntoia Brown-Long, a survivor of teenage sex trafficking and an advocate for criminal justice reform, will be the keynote speaker. The day’s activities will conclude with the 25th annual Respect Life Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels beginning at 5 p.m.
Martha Wheelock, a filmmaker and board member for the National Women’s History Alliance who helped oversee the 2020 Rose Parade float celebrating passage of the 19th Amendment, plans to attend this year’s Women’s March in suffrage-inspired attire. The same way marches for the 19th Amendment brought women out of their kitchens and basements in the early 1900s, she said today’s demonstrations also provide a platform for their political activism.
“It pulls women together,” said Wheelock, 78.
The first marches in January 2017 were organized in direct response to Trump’s election amid a campaign season marred by his sexist rhetoric and behavior toward women, including audio from the “Access Hollywood” recording in which he can be heard making lewd comments. Born out of a Facebook group in support of Hillary Clinton, the marches were among the largest demonstrations in U.S. history, drawing hundreds of thousands of protesters in Washington, Los Angeles and other cities.
Since the first marches in 2017, Guereca said she has never expected the same massive outpouring, as women continue to find new ways to make their voices heard.
“Our data shows that each year 60% of our marchers are new marchers,” she said.
While the Los Angeles march is nonpartisan, Democratic women make up the bulk of its base. Jean Sinzdak, associate director for the nonpartisan and nonprofit Center for American Women and Politics, said the first Women’s March offered many women a starting point for their activism. Over the years, she said, many participants have gotten involved in local and state politics.
“The first Women’s March was really about making voices heard,” she said. “What’s happened in the evolution is that women have gone back into their communities and figured out what their next steps should be.”
The 2020 march comes at a time when three women are running for president on the Democratic ticket and on the same week that Virginia became the 38th state to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. It also comes on the eve of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault trial - the allegations against him gave rise to the #MeToo movement and spurred more activism and political involvement.
During the midterm elections in 2018, a record number of women ran for Congress – and won. In California, one woman was elected to the U.S. Senate and four women were elected to the House of Representatives.
Sinzdak said that it’s possible that the number of women who will run for Congress in 2020 will surpass those in 2018. While the majority of the 103 women who won congressional seats were Democrats, this time around, the number of Republican women who are potential candidates is surging.
The “ball is moving forward,” Sinzdak said.
Saturday’s events will start at 9 a.m. Participants will congregate in Pershing Square before making their way to L.A. City Hall. Streets will be closed starting at 12:01 a.m. Saturday along Spring Street, Broadway and Hill Street between 1st & Temple streets. At 7:30 a.m., the full route closure takes effect on Spring, Broadway, Hill, and Olive, from Temple to 6th Street as well as east-west cross streets along the route. At 11:30 a.m. the One Life March begins, creating closures on Cesar Chavez Boulevard, Broadway, Alpine Street and Alameda Street in Chinatown. Closures will be lifted at 4 p.m.