Women’s March Excludes Black Lives Matter LA

Supporters and volunteers surround a group of counter protesters as signs advocating for the march block the other signs as chants for women’s rights and equality are chanted by the supporters in Los Angeles this past Saturday.

Marisa Martinez, Editor-in-Chief

Black Lives Matter LA accused the Women’s March LA Foundation of exclusivity while planning for its annual march. 

Cal State LA’s former Pan-African Studies Chair Melina Abdullah. a founder and organizer of Black Lives Matter LA, spoke out against the march on social platforms on Friday for not allowing the grassroots movement to speak at the event. 

In an article written by Abdulla on LA Progressive, she explains that the WMLA did not respond to BLMLA when it asked to participate in the event. She said the 4th annual march marks BLM’s first year of not participating in the event based on a “culmination of ongoing disagreement and tension.”

According to the article, there have been previous complications between the two organizations based on the amount of speakers that were allowed to represent BLM in 2017. WMLA allowed a sole speaker to take the stage whereas BLM structures around group-based leadership.

“We refused this restriction because we practice group-centered, rather than celebrity-style, leadership,” Abdullah explained.

In response, according to LAist, WMLA stated that BLM was not on its roster of speakers due to WMLA’s vote-focused agenda for the rally, but hoped the organization would participate to march for women’s rights.

Black Lives Matter has participated in past year’s programming and we hope they will march in support of women’s rights again this year. While we support Black Lives Matter and its work, since this is an important election year, our speaking program for Women’s March LA 2020 is focused on highlighting organizations and individuals who have a mission to register and encourage people to vote,” WMLA said in a statement.

On Saturday’s rally, the crowd focused on the positivity of the day to promote a progressive vote at the polls this coming March for the California primary.

Debra Silbar, an annual Women’s March attendee and member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), dressed as a suffragette along with several other women to “support every cause” that attended the event.

“Everyone owns our flag… We feel that whether it’s women’s right to vote, indigenous people’s or whatever it may be, we wanted to support that,” Silbar said. “We wanted to dress as something American and promote American flags because being here and protesting is the second most American thing you can do. The first being: vote.”

When asked about BLM not being included in the event lineup for the day, Jen Braun, another attendee dressed as a suffragette, expressed her hope for the two organizations to join forces for the greater good. 

“I just wish people could find a way to work together to achieve maximum equality,” Braun said.

For some, the move to not include the grassroots movement of BLM kept them from attending the event with the march’s original agenda in mind.

Cal State LA’s Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanix de Atzlán’s (MEChA) Co-Chair Estrella Lopez explained that some of the student organization’s members made an appearance at the march to raise awareness of the BLM issue. 

“Some of our members were upset about what had happened, but we did have some members going out there posting up posters about how BLM should be at the march, how BLM should be allowed to speak. So, they went out, but to demonstrate and show support for BLM who wasn’t invited to go,” said Lopez.

She went on to say that the fallout between BLM and WMLA kept herself further from attending the event, despite having a previous engagement during the scheduled march.

“I didn’t feel like it was going to be right for me to attend something that I didn’t fully believe in,” Lopez explained.

Melina Abdullah did not respond for a comment on this matter. Cal State LA’s Black Student Union was unavailable to comment on this matter due to scheduling conflicts.