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by | Dec 26, 2018 | Government, News, Politics, Religion & Spirituality | 0 comments

The Chicago chapter of the Women’s March has canceled its rally planned for January, citing high costs and insufficient volunteer hours, the Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday.

The newspaper noted that the cancellation of the event, which in the past drew hundreds of thousands of people to the city, comes amid growing controversy surrounding the group’s national leaders and their ties to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who has made several anti-Semitic comments in the past.

Marches and rallies in Washington, D.C., and in cities across the country are still planned for Jan. 19, including several in Illinois. The Chicago chapter has said it will commemorate the anniversary of the national march in other ways but hasn’t yet released details.

“There’s no march, there’s no rally,” Sara Kurensky, a Women’s March Chicago board member, told the Tribune. “We’re going to provide ways for people to organize and take action in their local communities.”

The Chicago chapter of the Women’s March signaled in a Facebook post in November that they would not hold another rally in January. Many commentators responded with disappointment, with some saying they would go to other Illinois events or travel to D.C.

The cancellation takes place against a backdrop of controversy, as leaders of the national Women’s March have come under fire for their ties to Farrakhan, whose Nation of Islam is considered an anti-Semitic hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In a February speech in which he praised Women’s March co-founder Tamika Mallory, Farrakhan said that “the powerful Jews are my enemy.” The national movement denounced the comments in March but faced criticism for waiting too long. Mallory has also applauded Farrakhan on social media.

Teresa Shook, a co-founder of the national movement, in November called for national leaders to step down, after having “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.”

The Washington state chapter announced earlier in December that the group would dissolve in protest, and the Rhode Island chapter declared it is separating from the national movement.

“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,” Women’s March National Organizer Linda Sarsour said in a November statement, referencing homophobic remarks Farrakhan has also made.

Linda Sarsour’s latest effort to distance the Women’s March leadership from Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan may have backfired.

A Women’s March national co-chair, Ms. Sarsour met with heavy skepticism after insisting that she has never met Mr. Farrakhan — or attended a Farrakhan speech — even though they both spoke at a rally he hosted in 2015.

“I for one, have NEVER EVER met the Minister but facts don’t matter and people want to throw the baby out with the bath water,” Ms. Sarsour said in a Saturday post on Facebook. “Discarding People is not how we transform hearts and eradicate antisemitism.”

As sharp-eyed social-media critics quickly pointed out, Ms. Sarsour spoke at Justice or Else, an October 2015 event at the National Mall organized by Mr. Farrakhan marking the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March.

“So how can we believe the Women’s March when they say they are truly sorry for how they have hurt Jewish people when keep lying about their affiliation with Farrakhan?” said the Twitter account (((kweansmom))).

Ms. Sarsour also said that only one of the four Women’s March co-chairs has attended a speech by Mr. Farrakhan, referring to Tamika Mallory, who came under fire for her appearance in February at his annual Saviours’ Day event in Chicago.

“Only one leader of the Women’s March was at one of Minister Farrakhan’s speeches and she has written about it and the Women’s March has put out many many statements rejecting ALL forms of racism including antisemitism,” Ms. Sarsour said in the post on co-chair Bob Bland’s page.

According to a C-SPAN transcript, however, co-chair Carmen Perez spoke at the 2015 Justice or Else rally in her role as executive director of the Gathering for Justice, as did Ms. Mallory, whose online biography lists her as an organizer of the event. Mr. Farrakhan also delivered a speech.

“[T]here is lots of evidence that Linda Sarsour blatantly lied in her above statement about 1 member 1 time attending a Farrakhan speech,” said Ariana Bell, who identified herself as a “Jewish woman of color.” “All you have to do is Google to see lots of pictures of Mallory and Perez posing with him and comments that he is the best on their Instagram.”

She cited an Instagram photo from November 2016 showing Ms. Perez holding hands with Mr. Farrakhan, underneath which Ms. Sarsour commented, “the brother does not age. God bless him.”

Ms. Mallory, who said in May that she has been going to Nation of Islam events since she was a child, has appeared on multiple occasions as an adult with Mr. Farrakhan, including the 2016 Saviours’ Day, which Ms. Perez also attended.

Ms. Sarsour’s attempt to put distance between the Women’s March leaders and Mr. Farrakhan comes with the progressive powerhouse facing a growing backlash over anti-Semitism allegations, which they deny.

On Twitter, (((kweansmom))) said Ms. Sarsour and the Women’s March “continue to lie about their Farrakhan connections” and posted photos and videos of Ms. Sarsour, Ms. Perez and Ms. Mallory speaking at the Justice or Else gathering.

“Whether you actually made eye contact or shook hands at his rally is irrelevant,” said the Monday post. “As Carmen Perez explained, you were there at Farrakhan’s special invitation. You supported him and legitimized him with your presence. You. Were. There.”

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