The 4th annual Women’s March is taking place today in cities around the country. Crowds in Washington DC were expected to be smaller than previous years due to bad weather. Reporter Alejandro Alvarez had coverage of the march:
Pink-hatted women have parked a big cage with a doll wrapped in a space blanket behind the media riser. Seems like a good time to mention immigration is one of their three big issues this year – others being climate and abortion rights.#WomensMarch2020 pic.twitter.com/bIIPzVUy4z
— Alejandro Alvarez (@aletweetsnews) January 18, 2020
Hard to tell how many people are there. The permit application anticipated 3,000 to 10,000. I’d say it’s closer to 3,000:
The march begins. It’s big enough to fill a stretch of Constitution Avenue from 17th to 15th streets from edge to edge. That’s easily a few thousand people at least.
— Alejandro Alvarez (@aletweetsnews) January 18, 2020
Last year the organizers estimated the crowd in DC was 60,000. This year it’s maybe a tenth of that.
Similar marches are taking place in more than 200 other locations. Los Angeles:
Good morning from the fourth annual Women's March in downtown Los Angeles. Crowds are gathering before the march to City Hall starts pic.twitter.com/xkwrn8ATMo
— Colleen Shalby (@CShalby) January 18, 2020
I found a live-stream helicopter shot of the LA march. The reporter in the chopper was saying it’s definitely a much smaller crowd than the first one in 2017:
Chicago turnout seems pretty strong:
There’s snow on the ground, but there are thousands of people here at Women’s March Chicago pic.twitter.com/hBvKMILHAB
— Grace Hauck (@grace_hauck) January 18, 2020
New York City:
Someone caught a scuffle involving a marcher and a Trump supporter. Looks like a woman spit at the guy with the “Trump 2020” flag and he pushed her back hard enough to knock her down:
I’m in NYC with Abby for the weekend and didn’t know this Women’s March would be going on here today. I was looking out of my window and saw this confrontation. If this isn’t a depiction of political America right now I don’t know what is. Makes me so sad. pic.twitter.com/yQKExKN9Cn
— Missi Wimberly (@missiwimberly) January 18, 2020
Philadelphia…crowd looks smallish but weather looks miserable:
— Kelly Rule (@KellyRuleTV) January 18, 2020
USA Today has a story up about the diminished crowd sizes over the March’s history:
The crowd estimator pegged nationwide participation in the 650-plus sister marches that day  at 3.3 million-5.3 million, making it the largest single-day protest in U.S. history. Those figures dwindled to 1.9 million-2.6 million in 2018 and 676,000-747,000 in 2019.
Some of the diminishing numbers can be attributed to protest fatigue, and perhaps Trump fatigue. But not all.
“With the reorganization of the Women’s March group, there’s been no discussion in D.C. at all really about the upcoming anniversary,’’ said Dana R. Fisher, a University of Maryland sociology professor and author of the book “American Resistance,” which chronicles the activist movement to oppose Trump.
“They haven’t maintained the momentum, and they haven’t done a great job of continuing to connect with the individuals who have been their core activists.’’
The obvious cause of some of this decline is controversy involving the leadership of the march. In 2018 the group’s leaders were accused of anti-Semitism and refused to apologize for close proximity to Louis Farrakhan. Eventually, three of the four co-chairs resigned under pressure. The one co-chair who remains, Carmen Perez gave an interview to the Atlantic this week. The title of the piece is “Has the Women’s March Accomplished Anything?”
Perez—who also serves as the president and chief executive officer of the Gathering for Justice, which works against racism in the criminal-justice system—could not give a lucid description of the goals of the Women’s March organization. This week, it has hosted “actions”—in effect, guided conversations and rallies—focused on the march’s three main issue areas: immigration, climate, and reproductive justice. But the planned events also veered into other territory, including a protest against war with Iran. It was not clear from our conversation whether and how the Women’s March organization plans to take concrete action on its long list of chosen issues. When pressed, Perez said the organization’s first goal is to “bring awareness.”
As the author pointed out, when asked directly, Perez still wouldn’t condemn Farrakhan:
Green: As you’re probably aware, part of the discomfort of some within the Jewish community was your hesitation to condemn people who are proximate to your organizing efforts, specifically Farrakhan. Have you gotten to a place where you feel comfortable saying, “I do not stand with him, and he doesn’t represent what I believe”?
Perez: I want to make clear that I organize under the ideology of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. That’s the reason why our messaging in the 2017 Women’s March was not anti-Trump—it was for something, for our unity principles. I do not support racism or bigotry. I do not support anti-Semitism. As a Latina woman, we don’t denounce people, but that does not mean that we cannot stand up and fight for our Jewish siblings and the Jewish community. The work that I feel is important is to make sure that we’re building transformational relationships and also opportunities for reconciliation. That is my life’s work. And so I listened to the Jewish community and their concerns, and they’ve also listened to me, and it’s about us building stronger relationships.
Why is it so hard to simply denounce the man? He’s a leading anti-Semite at a time when rising anti-Semitism is a serious concern. Perez seemed to be the most willing to apologize of the original four co-chairs but she still won’t go there.
At this point my guess is the Women’s March will vanish if a Democrat wins the 2020 election, the same way the anti-war protests vanished once Obama was elected. However, if Trump wins the election this year then there will probably be a resurgence in the march’s turnout next January. I wonder which outcome the march organizers are hoping for at this point.