Feminists Took to the Streets in Los Angeles to Fight Sexual Harassment and Abuse

Survivors, allies and activists took Los Angeles by storm Sunday as they pushed back against workplace sexism and highlighted the intersections of gender-based violence and economic inequality at two different marches.

The Take Back the Workplace March brought hundreds of activists together in Hollywood to fight back against sexual harassment and abuse a month after a slew of sexual harassment and assault allegations began to mount against Harvey Weinstein. Organized by comedian Tess Rafferty, with the help of the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF), Civican and We For She, the march sent a clear warning to those who perpetrate sexual violence and those who are complicit in it.

“We’re marching to demand a commission to take action against sexual harassment,” organizers declared in a joint announcement, “to change the culture in Hollywood with zero-tolerance policies for abusive behavior and a secure, reliable, unimpeachable system in which victims of abuse can report what’s happened to them with a confident expectation that action will be taken—without placing their employment, reputation and career at risk.”

Survivors—including Lauren Sivan, who herself has accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct— shared their stories and proved their resilience. Other activists, including civil rights lawyer Areva Martin and California State Sen. Connie Leyva, spoke about legal support for survivors and called for policy reform. In front of the CNN building, organizers from Alianza Nacional de Campesinas—an organization fighting for liberation for farmworker women—read from a letter of solidarity, speaking on behalf of almost 700,000 women who work in agricultural fields and packing sheds of the U.S.

“We do not work under bright stage lights or on the big screen,” the letter read. “We work in the shadows of society in isolated fields and packinghouses that are out of sight and out of mind for most people in this country. Even though we work in very different environments, we share a common experience of being preyed upon by individuals who have the power to hire, fire, blacklist and otherwise threaten our economic, physical and emotional security.”

The day of activism didn’t end there. Many participants ultimately made their way to a #MeToo Survivors March taking place the same day in Los Angeles—headed by Tarana Burke, the creator of the “Me Too” campaign and founder of Just Be Inc., an organization committed to supporting and uplifting young women of color.

“I’m really happy to come here, because really it’s Hollywood that opened this floodgate,” said Burke at the march. “It’s really symbolic to have this march happen, not with Hollywood stars, but in Hollywood.” Burke went on to emphasize that, like the Take Back the Workplace march, the #MeToo Survivors March is one step in a larger struggle against gender-based violence that impacts women and queer and trans people of color most heavily. “This goes so far beyond Hollywood,” she told the crowd. “This goes so far beyond the glitz and the glamour of what we’re seeing in the media—deep into the crevices of all parts of the world.”

Echoing Burke’s statements as well as the sentiments of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, AF3IRM National Chairperson Ivy Quicho fired up the crowd at the #MeTooMarch. “Sisters, today I challenge you to practice a feminism that is revolutionary,” she proclaimed. “Let us go beyond building a sisterhood of suffering to a sisterhood of societal transformation. Let us continue to share our stories, to demand justice and accountability, but let us also actively work on dismantling the structures and culture that breeds and upholds such violence in the first place so that generations of future universes shall never know the concept of violence. And most importantly, let us be bold in our dreaming of liberation and reimagine what justice could look like, taste like, feel like.”

Sunday’s marches brought the challenges survivors face in seeking justice to the forefront, and built on an ever-expanding conversation about sexual harassment and abuse that is growing daily as women across industries begin breaking the silence in the wake of the Weinstein allegations. And as survivors voiced their fears and demonstrated their resilience, feminist organizers began to bravely construct the next steps on the path towards liberation from gendered and racialized violence—in Hollywood and beyond.

“Sisters,” Quicho said to the crowd Sunday, “we women are targets for one reason, and one reason alone—because they fear our collective power and growing movement. Sisters, we are still here, and we are not going anywhere.”

Taliah Mancini is an editorial intern at Ms.

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