By: Sierra Bardfeld and Ariella Nardizzi
A smaller Women’s March compared to recent years marched around the Arizona State Capitol Saturday where speakers took time to acknowledge the recent anti-semitic controversy embroiling the march around the country.
Local organizers disassociated themselves from the national organization, Women’s March Inc. which has been under scrutiny for allegations of anti-Semitism in recent months. Organizer Eva Burch said the movement had partnered with the national group the last two years but decided not to this year.
This year saw about 6,700 attendees at the march. In 2018 and 2017, Phoenix saw more than 20,000 people according to the Arizona Republic.
“It was a really easy decision for us because we had people in the Jewish community coming to us expressing their concerns,” Burch said. “We are a movement based on inclusion, and we are not going to tolerate hate and anti-Semitism coming from any community.”
The controversy came from Women’s March Inc. board members Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez who, according to Tablet, “asserted that Jewish people bore a special collective responsibility as exploiters of black and brown people.” Mallory herself is under fire because of her past association with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. She also recently made an appearance on The View where she refused to condemn Farrakhan’s past anti-Semitic statements but did say she “disagreed” with them.
Due to the nature of the anti-Semitic remarks, questions have risen about the organization and has discouraged some participation in sister marches across the country.
Rebecca Wolf, a professor of Occupational Therapy at A.T. Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine, marched with her two young sons and with about 6,700 other participants, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
“I’ve been concerned about the allegations of anti-Semitism among the organizers of the Women’s March, and there have been a lot of discussions around whether or not Jews should come to the Women’s March this year,” Wolf said.
Arizona State University sophomore Anika Gill acknowledged the concerns about marching and supporting for an anti-Semitic organization, but the Phoenix group’s decision to stand independently was enough to attract participants.
“In the end I felt comfortable supporting the Phoenix march because, while reading into it, it seemed more about a personal fight,” Gill said.
Despite the large majority of attendees in support of the Women’s March and Jewish community, a small group waving the Israeli flag and advocated for President Donald Trump instead.
“We are here today because we support Israel as a country and as an ally,” said Mike Pavlock, a Trump supporter at the march. “I am here for answers. In my opinion, 80-85% of marchers in Phoenix think they understand what they are marching for, but I really do not think they do.”
The march’s theme, “Rising Together,” was continually highlighted by political organizations in attendance, such as Maricopa County Democratic Party Chair Cathy Hozian.
“We include everyone. We don’t care what color you are, we don’t care what religion you practice. We’re all in this together, especially as women,” Hozian said.
Arizona Legislative District 26 Representative Athena Salman said she had not been following the controversy surrounding the comments but praised the march’s dedication to inclusivity.
The march commenced with a lineup of community speakers who came from very diverse backgrounds. Miriam Weisman, who spoke of the issues impacting Jewish women and the Jewish community, is a lifelong activist who supports equal rights for all.
“This incident involving the anti-Semitic comments has changed the conversation of solidarity, and that should have been the inviting principle in the first place,” Weisman said. “The organizers of the Women’s March in Arizona were very open and supportive in the inclusivity, and they made it very clear that this is not what they believed in.”
There was a diverse group of organizations tabling at the march. One was the Arizona Palestine Solidarity Alliance, where volunteer Jamil Mazen expressed his agreement with the Phoenix chapter of the group to denounce anti-Semitism.
“We have had a lot of conversations with Jewish women at the march today, which all ended in handshakes and hugs,” Mazen said.