Women’s March Los Angeles organizers Emiliana Guereca and Deena Katz want to ignite a new wave of civil rights activism
By Joe Piasecki and Christina Campodonico
“Can’t satisfy her husband.”
“Doesn’t have the look.”
These are just some of the words that the man who on Friday will become the 45th president of the United States has used to publicly denigrate and intimidate women.
“Would Bernie [Sanders] be called a ‘nasty man’? Absolutely not. The level of disrespect is just not acceptable,” observes Emiliana Guereca, one of the two lead organizers of Saturday’s Women’s March Los Angeles — both a response to the divisiveness that defined the 2016 presidential election and a call for those dismayed by it to unify around shared progressive values.
“You can be upset until the 20th, but come the 21st we’ve got to do something,” says co-organizer Deena Katz.
“It’s about activating our community,” adds Guereca. “Immigrants. Females. We stayed home. Sorry to say it, but we did. We’ve failed as a community to show up. We need to show up.”
Both Katz and Guereca are mothers and residents of West L.A., and the two sometimes even finish each other’s sentences during a joint interview at the WeWork Playa Vista co-working space on Jefferson Boulevard, where they’ve been meeting to plan the march.
But six weeks ago, they didn’t even know each other.
Guereca, who produces art and music festivals throughout Southern California, grew up one of 10 children to immigrant parents in a hardscrabble, mixed-race Chicago neighborhood plagued by gang violence.
Katz, co-executive producer of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” and a producer of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” grew up in a progressive home in a wealthy, conservative and almost entirely Caucasian area of Rancho Palos Verdes. Katz’s parents took great pains to involve her in activities with kids of various backgrounds — her mother, one of the
first women to demonstrate a breast self-exam on TV, going so far as to organize underground summer camps in East L.A.
When Katz arrived at the idea to organize a Los Angeles counterpart to the Women’s March on Washington, she learned that Guereca had already pulled permits for such a march and the two combined forces.
Women’s March Los Angeles begins with a rally in Pershing Square from 9 to 10 a.m., followed by a march to L.A. City Hall, where participants will gather once again from 11 a.m. until well into the afternoon for speakers, musical performances, food trucks and information booths from the likes of Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for Women and the ACLU.
Make no mistake: Katz and Guereca are very upset with and about Trump, and this is a way of pushing back.
“For as much as he and his administration can ‘fake news’ this out — ‘it’s not real, we won, we got a mandate’ — whether they will admit or not this puts them on notice, holds the administration’s feet to the fire,” says Katz.
But seldom during an hour-long interview does either woman mention Trump by name. While the purpose of the event is to inspire broader political engagement and the inauguration is the catalyst, Katz and Guereca do not call it a protest.
“Even if it’s what I’m feeling, I don’t want it to look like we are all just people angry at [Trump], because that’s not what this is. We are not negative; we are not anti-[Trump]; we are not a protest,” says Katz.
“We’re not nasty, we’re not angry,” she adds. “I think we’re empowered now.”
“This is proactive,” says Guereca. “To me, it’s about human rights. They want us to be just this one specific group of angry woman, but so many people are affected.”
That includes people of color, immigrants, the LGBT community and anyone — including men — who believe none of those groups should be targeted for ridicule or persecution by public officials and government policy.
“It’s not just about me. It’s about everyone. It’s about religious rights. It’s about workers’ rights. It’s about teachers. It’s about reproductive rights. It’s about Muslim rights, and I’m a Jew. It doesn’t matter. We all have to get out there and fight for everyone,” says Katz.
Support for Women’s March Los Angeles is spreading on social media with the hashtag “#HearOurVoices,” and a tentative speakers list illustrates a desire for inclusivity.
Leading the speakers list for the 11 a.m. rally are Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, both of whom have been outspoken in their public support for protecting the rights of women as well as the immigrant and LGBT communities.
“I am marching Saturday because I want to show my support for the millions of Americans who continue to believe that we should be a nation that respects and supports everyone — whether they are a woman, a man, an immigrant, gay, straight, trans, poor, or Muslim. We need to lead by example and fight to make Los Angeles County a model for the nation,” says Hahn, whose district includes Marina del Rey.
Other planned speakers include Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents Westside communities, L.A. County Supervisor and former U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, L.A.-area Congresswoman Judy Chu, former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, transgender activist Maria Louisa Roman, Muslim activist Soraya Deen and representatives of the groups Black Women for Wellness and California Latinas for Reproductive Justice.
“Whatever your passion is, show up for it,” says Guereca.
“For me, it was either I’m going to be in the fetal position and maybe have a nervous breakdown and sob,” says Katz, “or I’m going to get out of bed and, with my 16-year-old daughter, do something.”
“It’s not hopeless,” Guereca says. Women’s March Los Angeles happens Saturday, Jan. 21, in Downtown Los Angeles. The march begins at 9 a.m. in Pershing Square (6th and Hill streets), followed by a 10 a.m. march to Los Angeles City Hall (200 N. Spring St.) for a rally from 11 a.m. to noon, with entertainment and information sessions happening into the afternoon. Visit womensmarchla.org for more information.