By Amanda Becker
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two years after filling the streets of American cities to protest against the start of Donald Trump's presidency, women will march again this weekend to try to build political pressure against him prior to the elections 2020.
The loose movement around the marches is fragmented when it enters its third year, and one of the different groups now involved has been confronted with criticism that it is anti-Semitic, which it denies. But leaders of the political groups say the momentum has not slowed, and the rallies will celebrate unprecedented gains for women in congress and state contests during last year's interim elections.
Millions of people participated in women's marches in Washington and other cities in the United States and beyond on January 21, 2017, the day after the Republican president was sworn in.
Vanessa Wruble, co-founder of the original Women's March on Washington, who left to begin March On, a separate grassroots coalition, said the movement has evolved from a response to Trump's presidency.
It was "essentially the resistance movement, and now you see that the movement is much more proactive," she said.
Women & # 39; s March, a national nonprofit that evolved from the first march in Washington, uses Saturday's # WomensWave marches in Washington to roll out a 10-piece policy platform that includes the federal minimum wage and the reproductive protect rights.
"Women are simply not on the agenda in this current board," said Rachel Carmona, Chief Operating Officer of Women & # 39; s March.
March On launches an initiative to mobilize female voters through Saturday & # 39; March on the Polls 2020 & # 39; to organize in dozens of cities, including Boston and Denver.
Dozens of like-minded organizations will organize training sessions for activists and potential candidates.
More than 400 women signed up to participate in a training session for candidates this weekend in Washington, organized by Emily's List, an organization that elects women who support abortion rights, said spokeswoman Tonya Williams.
Wruble said that the 2018 elections showed that the movement had shifted the balance of power in American politics. More women were elected to the US Congress than ever before, and many of the new Democratic women's lawmakers quoted Trump's presidency as one of the reasons they decided to go to the office.
Of course, women are not all united around the same causes. The annual "March for life" by anti-abortion campaigners, taking place on Friday in Washington, is a movement of people who broadly embrace Trump and Republicans.
EFFORTS OF GRASS ROOTS
At the beginning, March On was funded by leaders who covered the expenses out of pocket, but in 2018 it raised a "substantial" amount and aims to raise $ 2 million in 2019, according to Wruble.
March On distributes funds to local affiliates for planning on the ground, offers design assistance for websites and logos and gives access to a PR company. In February and March, the leaders of the group will meet with partners to determine how best to support their efforts during the next election cycle.
"This year is really going to increase our toolbox from what we offer them," said March On's Natalie Sanchez, an organizer of the Boston Women's March 2017, which is also joined with March Forward. Massachusetts, which leads the Saturday march from there.
The Women & # 39; s March now has national progressive groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Move On among its partners. March Partners include the ACLU, Rock the Vote and Emerge America, which recruits democratic women for a job.
Carmona of Women & # 39; s March said she spends 60 hours per week on call planning, including chapter calls with 30 to 45 local organizations. The group has toured 10 states prior to last year's Congress elections and is working on developing a nationwide strategy that would train more local leaders for the 2020 presidential competition, she said.
Growing pains have arisen in a movement that has arisen from hundreds of loosely connected marches in 2017.
In cities such as New York, several events will be organized by various organizations on Saturday, largely as a result of calls from some religious leaders to boycott Women & # 39; s March for criticism that some of its leaders are anti-Semitic.
Leiden market leader Linda Sarsour has issued a statement in which all forms of anti-Semitism and intolerance are condemned. Leaders Tamika Mallory and Bob Bland repeated this week in the talk show program & # 39; The View & # 39; from ABC that they are committed to a movement that fights all forms of oppression.
Leaders of Women & # 39; s March and March On emphasize that the divisions are not a weakness.
"I know that there have been controversies this year and that there are cracks and splits that may or may not affect numbers on certain marches, but I have not seen that this has an effect on the power of the movement above all else "Wruble said.
Carmona said "there is a role for everyone" does not matter in which group they join, adding decentralized movements had a kind of force that is difficult to strike & # 39 ;.
(Reporting By Amanda Becker; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Frances Kerry)