Women’s March on Raleigh gathers on anniversary of nationwide protest

Thousands attend rally at legislative complex for progressive causes

Women's March in Raleigh, N.C. (David Larson/NSJ)

RALEIGH — On Jan. 26, a sunny Saturday, supporters of the “Women’s March” filled the Halifax Mall in North Carolina’s legislative complex. More than 40 community organizations, such as Carolina Abortion Fund, League of Women Voters, UNC Law School, Duke Health and labor unions, came to set up booths at the back of the rally or to have representatives speak.

The thousands in attendance came to support a wide variety of causes, but common themes included abortion rights, resisting President Trump’s administration, creating fair districts and expanding health care options.

“I feel that our reproductive rights are under threat.” said Lindsay, a Raleigh woman, to North State Journal when asked what issues brought her to the march. “We have all these options limiting health care and abortions, but at the same time this administration is pushing policies that force us to carry pregnancies to term — forcing birth. This is hypocritical and, frankly, infuriating.”

Her friend Erin, also from Raleigh, agreed that abortion rights were central to why many, including themselves, were motivated to attend.

“I work for the system, and many of these kids, if forced to be born, are being born into terrible situations where the family isn’t supported.” Erin said. “I work with kids in the DSS, and I’m also working with kids with developmental delays, often being born with narcotics in their system. I even had one mom say, ‘I couldn’t get an abortion,’ and she abandoned her children. But there’s very few places I can send these people.”

Another frequent theme was the wave of high-profile sexual harassment and abuse cases across the country and what that said about how women are treated in the culture.

“I’m also concerned about crimes against women, and that they are not being taken seriously,” Lindsay said. “Recently, like with the Kavanaugh vote and with the ‘Me Too’ movement, people wonder why women don’t want to come forward. Just look at how our system has handled this.

Many marchers focused their signs and chants on connecting women’s issues to broader liberal causes.

“We have a more leftist view of feminism, and that’s where we’re trying to push the Women’s March,” Sky, the president of the Young Democratic Socialists of America for N.C. State University, told North State Journal. She had brought a group of other students from her organization with her to hand out literature while holding signs that read, “Ask me about socialist feminism.”

“The march is pretty centrist and has some pretty problematic politics,” Sky said. “It’s pretty bourgeois and not as inclusive as it could be. They’re like, ‘Oh, if we get rid of Trump, we’re going to be free,’ but no. There’s still going to be people trying to take away our reproductive rights, and there’s still going to be people exploiting labor, and we’re still going to be an imperial force oppressing women abroad. They’re trying to reduce the problem to a couple bad actors, but it’s the whole system. It’s systemic.”

In addition to the pushback from the left from groups like Sky’s, the march is also dealing with negative press after anti-Semitic comments from some of the founders became public. In response, the organizers of the Raleigh march distanced themselves from the national movement and made clear they are completely independently run.

“Raleigh Women’s March is Independent of Women’s March, Inc.,” a statement on the group’s Facebook page said. “Women Mobilize NC is NOT affiliated with the National Women’s March and has organized each event in Raleigh independently. We are appalled by the rise of anti-Semitism and the pain and suffering it causes. Women Mobilize NC stands with all women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. We condemn all forms of hate and bigotry.”

On Wednesday, the North Carolina General Assembly will reconvene to begin their 2019-20 biennial session. A number of members attended the march in support.