The 2020 Women's March Attempts To Overcome Its Troubled Past For the fourth year, the anti-Trump Women's March will stage events in Washington, D.C., and other places. After years of controversy, the group now has new leadership and a new focus.
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After Controversial Leaders Step Down, The Women's March Tries Again In 2020

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After Controversial Leaders Step Down, The Women's March Tries Again In 2020

After Controversial Leaders Step Down, The Women's March Tries Again In 2020

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NOEL KING, HOST:

Three years ago on President Trump's first day in office, millions of people around the world protested. It was the first Women's March. Since then, the organization behind the march has struggled with internal divisions. But the march is back this weekend. It has a new leadership and a new focus. NPR's Isabella Gomez Sarmiento has the story.

ISABELLA GOMEZ SARMIENTO, BYLINE: Dozens of people are gathered at an artist's studio in Washington, D.C. They screen print flags, draw up posters and paint banners.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: All right. We're going to put it on the plastic.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: All on the black...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Careful behind you not to step on the other one.

SARMIENTO: Twenty-eight-year-old Icy Coomber (ph) is here for the first time. She says she just didn't feel like women's marches in the past have represented her experiences.

ICY COOMBER: When we're talking about, like, women's rights, it's - I feel like black women or women of color are usually left out of that conversation. But it's just like, why would I go to something like that when it's not really about me? It's about women who have a lot more opportunities than I do.

SARMIENTO: Since the first Women's March in 2017, the movement has faced criticism for being too white, out of touch and for glossing over issues of gender, race and class. There were also accusations that some leaders were anti-Semitic. Last summer, 3 out of 4 founding members stepped down. A bigger and more diverse board took their place. For this year's march, the organization polled its base of supporters and decided to focus on three main issues - climate, reproductive rights and immigration. Another change this year - no big stage with celebrity appearances. Rachel O'Leary Carmona is the group's chief operating officer.

RACHEL O'LEARY CARMONA: I think it just felt like the moment - the political moment is with the people, you know? And you see that not just across our country but across the globe.

SARMIENTO: But the crowd in Washington will also be a lot smaller this year. The permit filed with the National Park Service allows for up to 10,000 people. Celeste Montoya, who teaches gender studies and movements at the University of Colorado Boulder, says losing steam like this isn't unusual. But she says she's not sure the Women's March is still as necessary as it was in 2017.

CELESTE MONTOYA: In that first march, it was just kind of what a Trump presidency might materialize into. And since then, a lot of those threats have materialized.

SARMIENTO: And that's meant entirely new protests surrounding climate, immigrants' rights and a separate #MeToo movement. Even so, people like Crystal Clarity are still excited about the women's march.

CRYSTAL CLARITY: My experience with mobilizations and marches in general is that it's not enough to take the streets. We kind of have to keep it. We have to keep the streets.

SARMIENTO: March leader Carmona agrees. She says she feels like now more than ever it's important for women to band together with other movements.

CARMONA: This march is the last march before the 2020 presidential election. And literally everything that we love is on the line.

SARMIENTO: More than 200 sister marches are set to take place in cities around the world, showing that even as it struggles, the Women's March keeps drawing in more people. Isabella Gomez Sarmiento, NPR News, Washington.

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