Women’s march leaders make plans of action

January women's march, International Women's Day event organized by separate groups

The Women’s March, set for its third year, has attracted thousands of protesters to Old Town Eureka in its past two incarnations. (Times-Standard file)

The new organizers behind the women’s march in Eureka — which, in the span of a week, was both canceled and revived in controversial fashion — are looking to crowdfund expenses for the latest iteration of the town’s largest annual protest.

Linda Atkins, former Eureka City Council member, is hosting the event, set for Jan. 19 at noon. A crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe.com has raised over $500 from locals as of Wednesday evening. The donations will cover insurance for the event along with sound equipment costs.

Atkins and company have already obtained a permit for the event, confirmed Christine Tyson of the city manager’s office.

“We’ve already covered the insurance costs with the GoFundMe,” Atkins said. “We’re doing everything on a quick timeline; I’ve never done something like this before. This is a very new experience for me.”

Atkins said she hasn’t spoken to the original planners, who made headlines in late December when they canceled the event after concluding the group’s organizing team was “overwhelmingly white.” The organizers’ announcement prompted everything from praise to ridicule to outrage on both local and national platforms.

Having been a women’s advocate since the 1970s, Atkins said she has spent a long time learning about the issues of inclusion, not just of race but also the LGBTQ community, of which she is a part. But the women’s march did not need to be canceled, she said — only reworked.

“We want to resist the racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, homophobia, you name it, of the Trump administration,” she said. “What we’re hoping is that the original planning team continues their work and expands inclusion.”

The entire community is invited to take part in the protest, Atkins added. Previous women’s marches have brought historically large numbers of protesters to Old Town Eureka.

Amid controversy over the cancellation, the original women’s march leaders announced last week they had shifted focus to an International Women’s Day event in March. On Tuesday night, the group met to discuss and begin planning the upcoming event.

Sharrone Blanck, president of Eureka’s local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said she will speak at the event in March. She’s in contact with the organizers and praised them last week for recognizing a lack of racial diversity in their group.

Atkins’ revived women’s march is “fine,” Blanck said, since it seems like the new organizers are “working from a different premise.”

“If I were asked to participate, I would consider it, but I haven’t been asked,” said Blanck. She pulled out of directly organizing the previous event due to other commitments.

Local NAACP president Sharrone Blanck, right, will speak at the International Women’s Day event in March. (Shomik Mukherjee — The Times-Standard file)

In canceling the original event, organizers cited various local political and social accomplishments led by women from communities of color. The idea, supporters say, is to expand perspectives.

Kathy Srabian, an organizer of the new women’s march and creator of the GoFundMe page, wrote Saturday on her Facebook page that with the initial cancellation, “women’s concerns” were being “bundled with all social justice concerns.”

“When I reach out for diverse speakers, they are not willing to speak because of legitimate concerns about other injustices,” Srabian wrote. “But do those injustices need to be piled on top of the quest for women’s rights?”

Srabian told the Times-Standard on Wednesday that her conversations with the would-be speakers were “not confrontational” and she hopes the community can “work this out.”

“We can improve on inviting diverse groups to diverse causes,” Srabian said. “We’re right in the middle of a very difficult conversation.”

Meanwhile, the executive director of a local nonprofit for indigenous peoples announced on the new protest’s Facebook event that she would boycott the march.

Tia Oros Peters, who has spoken at previous women’s marches, said people who consider themselves progressive or “woke” need to incorporate plans to address racial injustice among the indigenous and black communities.

“There has to be more than a sea of smiling pink hats with pats on their own backs for an annual walk around Old Town, while silencing, marginalizing, and ignoring real issues of justice and ongoing colonization,” she wrote.

A predominant reaction, on social media and otherwise, has been that the original women’s march leaders were being reverse-racist. Blanck, who is black and Jewish, said that at the very least, the reactions can be the genesis of a much-needed local dialogue about race.

“Until everyone puts their stuff onto the table, you can’t make progress,” Blanck said. “The fact that people seem offended by the idea that a group could be ‘too white’ reflects the narrowness of thinking — that’s why this is pushing so many buttons. But that’s an opportunity to say, ‘Oh, you’ve never heard that? We can talk about it.’”

Shomik Mukherjee can be reached at 707-441-0504.

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