California Women’s March rally called off over fears it would be ‘overwhelmingly white’

Maya Oppenheim

A women’s march rally has been cancelled over concerns the turnout would be “overwhelmingly white”.

The demonstration, in the town of Eureka in northern California, was due to take place on 19 January but the event has now been called off because it lacks representation from across the community.

Organisers said the decision, which comes amid friction in the wider women’s march movement, followed a number of conversations with leading local activists and supporters of the march.

“Up to this point, the participants have been overwhelmingly white, lacking representation from several perspectives in our community,” said a statement on Facebook. “Instead of pushing forward with crucial voices absent, the organising team will take time for more outreach.”

The Eureka group, which does not appear to be an official California chapter of the Women’s March, said it was looking into holding an event in March to celebrate International Women’s Day. It also encouraged local residents to attend a separate celebration on Martin Luther King Jr Day in Eureka on 21 January.

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Although many of the Facebook group’s members heaped praise on campaigners’ attempts to diversify the rally, others criticised the choice.

“Local organisers have let themselves be duped, what kind of crowd do they expect when you have 77.86 per cent of the population being white?” group member Terri Selfridge wrote. “Organisers PLEASE RECONSIDER!!!”

“I was appalled to be honest,” Amy Sawyer Longwrote said. “I understand wanting a diverse group. However, we live in a predominantly white area… not to mention how is it beneficial to cancel? No matter the race people still want their voices heard.”

David Holper added: “I was really saddened to hear that the march won’t be happening this year. Isn’t there still time to reach out to minority groups and pull this together?”

Census Bureau data from July shows that Humboldt County, where Eureka is located, is about 74 per cent non-Hispanic white.

The decision to call off the event comes after a planned Women’s March rally was cancelled in Chicago in January.

Organisers said it would be called off because they had already put “so much time, money, energy and effort" into a "march to the polls" event ahead of the midterm elections in November. They also referred to high costs and lack of volunteer hours.

The Chicago branch of the Women’s March has criticised the national initiative’s relationship with Louis Farrakhan - the leader of the Nation of Islam.

The group is deemed to be an antisemitic hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Centre.

A number of other regional chapters have distanced themselves from the national group over the leaders' ties to Mr Farrakhan, who has made antisemitic comments in the past - including saying “the powerful Jews are my enemy.”

20 January is the date of the third annual Women’s March, which was first held in Washington DC, the day after US president Donald Trump’s inauguration, with hundreds of sister marches planned in communities across the world.

The first Women’s March - which sought to promote equal rights for women and defend marginalised groups - was criticised. Some argued there was a lack of diversity among those who attended and the speakers selected.