Fight the Right

Against the Current, No. 62, May/June 1996

Claudette Begin

FORTY TO FIFTY thousand participants marched in San Francisco April 14. Over six hundred organizations from around the country endorsed NOW’s call. Primarily young people this was the most diverse crowd yet at a national NOW rally. Immigrants’ rights activists chanted alongside young women holding signs saying “Young Feminists” and “End Racism NOW” and Oregon gay rights activists contingents. Banners from labor unions flowed by posters about violence against women. But affirmative action was on everyone’s mind; organizers across the rally site were signing people up to campaign to defeat CCRI, the anti-affirmative action initiative which is slated will be on California’s November ballot.

Over 600 organizations from around the country endorsed NOW’s call, which set forth broad demands: no retreat on affirmative action, fight racism and immigrant bashing, end the war on poor people, support Medicaid/Medicare, promote fair labor practices, stop all forms of violence against women, ban discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, and protect abortion and reproductive rights. Some argued that the breadth of demands of the march kept some away – for example, the California NAACP declined to endorse the march — but some NAACP chapters chose to come anyway.

Patricia Ireland summed up NOW’s goal in sponsoring this march, “We wanted to bring together people who see the shared issues. We are fighting a common enemy. We need to be ready to march in the streets on every issue. I want all lesbian activists to come to support the minimum wage.” She compared the modest size of this march to the NOW Pro Choice marches in the early 1980s that launched a decade-long mobilization. “Just as the first abortion march had 40,000, we’ll see a massive outpouring as we continue to organize. When asked about supporting Clinton as was encouraged by Jesse Jackson and some others on stage, she responded with, “We’ll be watching our friends as well as our enemies… Clinton did the right thing in vetoing the abortion bill. But we have had change because we had movements, not because we had good people in office.”

ATC 62, May-June 1995