Women's March expecting smaller crowds amid controversy over alleged anti-Semitism
© Getty

The third-annual Women's March on Washington will take place Saturday amid allegations of anti-Semitism among its leadership ranks, which have led a number of prominent figures to distance themselves from the event.

Saturday's rally is expected to draw far fewer people to the nation's capital than the first Women's March two years ago, which came on the heels of President TrumpDonald John Trump Former US ambassador: 'Denmark is not a big fan of Donald Trump and his politics' Senate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Detroit county sheriff endorses Booker for president MORE's inauguration and brought nearly 500,000 people to Washington, D.C.

The inaugural Women's March was estimated to be the largest single-day protest in U.S. history, with around 4 to 5 million participants nationwide. This year, the numbers are expected to be much lower, and the energy around the event has tapered as its leaders have been unable to quell concerns about allegations of anti-Semitism.

ADVERTISEMENT

Rep. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzParkland father: Twitter did not suspend users who harassed me using name of daughter's killer Hillicon Valley: Senate Intel releases election security report | GOP blocks votes on election security bills | Gabbard sues Google over alleged censorship | Barr meets state AGs on tech antitrust concerns House committee leader questions Trump on efforts to secure elections MORE (D-Fla.), who attended the Women's March in 2017, published an op-ed in USA Today on Friday saying that she is "walking away" from the Women's March.

"I cannot associate with the national march’s leaders and principles, which refuse to completely repudiate anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry," Wasserman Schultz wrote. "I cannot walk shoulder to shoulder with leaders who lock arms with outspoken peddlers of hate." 

Much of the controversy stems from Women's March co-president Tamika Mallory's refusal to condemn Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, a proponent of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories who recently described Jews as "termites." 

During an appearance on ABC's "The View" over the weekend, Mallory said that she does not "agree with many of Minister Farrakhan’s statements," but stopped short of condemning him as a figure.

Multiple Democrats considering presidential bids in 2020 have said that they do not plan to attend the Women's March on Saturday. A spokesperson for Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Top adviser on Sanders: 'He's always been underestimated' 'The Simpsons' pokes fun at Trump's feud with 'the squad' MORE (D-Calif.), who spoke at the Women's March in 2017, told BuzzFeed News that she will not participate this year.

Meanwhile, Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Sanders unveils plan to double union membership in first term The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden expands lead in new national poll MORE (D-N.Y.), who also spoke at the 2017 event and announced this week that she is launching an exploratory committee for president, is planning to attend the Women's March Iowa on Saturday, the organization announced.

"Senator Gillibrand strongly condemns anti-Semitism from anyone, in all forms, and believes it has no place in a movement for women's empowerment or anywhere else," Gillibrand's campaign said in a statement.

Meanwhile, multiple prominent groups on the left, including the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Southern Poverty Law Center, Human Rights Campaign, NARAL and the Center for American Progress have dropped their sponsorship of the national event, most of them declining to comment directly on the disaffiliation. 

"The DNC stands in solidarity with all those fighting for women's rights and holding the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers across the country accountable," Sabrina Singh, the deputy communications director for the DNC, said in a statement to The Hill. She declined to comment on the specifics of the group's decision to drop their sponsorship. 

The national Women's March organization has faced escalating scrutiny for months over its ties to Farrakhan and its relationship with Jewish supporters, a debate that intensified when Vanessa Wruble, one of the group's original organizers, claimed that she faced anti-Semitism from Women's March co-presidents Carmen Perez and Mallory. 

Wruble told The New York Times in December that Perez and Mallory in a meeting sought to educate her on the "dark side" of Jewish history and claimed that Jewish people played an outsize role in the oppression of African-Americans. 

"Since that conversation, we’ve all learned a lot about how while white Jews, as white people, uphold white supremacy, ALL Jews are targeted by it,” Mallory said in a statement to the Times at the time.

The group's leaders have declined to condemn Farrakhan outright, but have said in multiple statements and media appearances that they unequivocally reject anti-Semitism. 

Saturday's march will take place in Washington, D.C., with sister events across the country, but far fewer people are expected to attend this time around.

Women's March national mobilizing director Mrinalini Chakraborty told The Hill that she expects "tens of thousands" to attend the event in the nation's capital — a sharp decline from the hundreds of thousands who flooded D.C. the day after Trump's inauguration in early 2017.

"I organized close to 3,000 buses for the first march," Chakraborty said. 

"This time, of course it’s much, much, much lower," she said, adding that she organized around 300 buses this year.