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Third Women’s March returns to D.C. amid anti-Semitism controversy

Thousands gathered in Washington D.C. for the third annual Women’s March on Saturday, following controversy over alleged anti-Semitism against the organizers. With issues surrounding climate change and the government shutdown on the agenda, around 300 marches also took place in other cities. Megan Thompson joins Hari Sreenivasan from D.C. with details.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Megan Thompson joins me now from Washington D.C. Megan, we're catching up with you just at the tail end of the march. People are kind of thinning out over there. But you had a chance to speak to people. What are they talking about? What's the mood there?

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    We've met people from all over the country this morning and they have come here with a broader range of concerns. You know, in 2017 after the first Women's March the focus was really on the inauguration of the president. Last year Me Too movement loomed large. This year there was a broad range of concerns that people are talking about — we've heard everything from concerns about the president's tax cut to climate change to the shutdown.

    Obviously, women's issues like women's health. reproductive rights, equal pay, those were on people's minds. But, I would say even more generally, there's a sense that people just want to be here, deliver a rebuke to this administration. We heard a lot of people talking about just wanting to exercise their right to be out and be politically active and be engaged in their community.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    For some parts of this year, just the organization of the march itself seemed to fracture a little bit. There were some controversies by a couple of the members of the original organizer, different marches. What's this all about?

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    So a lot of this is related to allegations of anti-Semitism on the part of a couple of the leaders of the national organization. One of the women, Tamika Mallory has appeared with the Nation of Islam and has expressed support for Louis Farrakhan who has made a lot of anti-Semitic comments in the past. And this has led to a lot of controversy. Some Of the local organizations have kind of splintered — in New York, where you are Hari, there are actually two competing marches going on. There have been some sort of some national groups that are not partnering with the March this year, here in D.C..

    So we asked a lot of the marchers here today if they pay attention to this, this is something that concerns them and we heard a range of responses. We spoke to some Jewish marchers who said that they had friends who asked them why are you even going to the march. We talked to other marchers who said that they felt concerned that their presence here may convey, you know, a sense of supporting what's been going on when it doesn't. Overall, I'd say people feel disappointed about these controversies have taken away from all the different messages that they're trying to convey here today. And a lot of them just said you know what, we are going to be here no matter what, marching.

    I also spoke to a young woman who is active with NAACP and she said the reason why I'm here is because this movement, this March needs to be more inclusive. There need to be more women of color and Tamika Mallory is one of the only African-American women on the march leadership, in the March organization. She said you know what, that's why I'm here.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    You know, you referenced it and you're standing in a city that is in some parts shut down. How does that impact the marchers?

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    The march was originally scheduled to be held on the National Mall. They were going to let it go ahead there because the permit had been secured before the shutdown.. But then the issue became snow. Because Of the shutdown, the park service wasn't going to be plowing or shoveling the sidewalks around there. There was snow here in D.C. earlier this week, there was snow predicted for today. So the march organizers, just a couple of days ago said you know what we're not going to let that interfere. They picked up and moved a couple of blocks away to the streets of D.C. that they knew would be clear for the marchers.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Alright, Megan Thompson joining us from the streets of D.C., it looks like those are plowed. Thanks so much for joining us.

  • MEGAN THOMPSON:

    Thanks, Hari

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