Women’s March Los Angeles co-founder Emiliana Guereca says Saturday’s march is about laying the groundwork for 2020

By Joe Piasecki

Photo by Maria Martin

The day after President Donald Trump took office, the inaugural Women’s March Los Angeles emerged as a spirited catalyst for the nascent Trump Resistance among Southern California progressives. In January 2018, it energized calls for increased voter participation that ultimately changed the balance of power
in the House of Representatives.

This year the L.A. march finds itself battling a public relations crisis. A co-founder of the separately organized Washington D.C. march is drawing widespread rebuke for her admiration of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and halfhearted denunciation of his anti-Semitic and homophobic rhetoric. And conservative commentator Tomi Lahren has been telling her 1.2 million Twitter followers that the L.A. march has been cancelled “for being too white,” erroneously conflating it with a controversy in Eureka, Calif., some 650 miles away.

And that’s confusing people in L.A., says Women’s March Los Angeles co-founder Emiliana Guereca, a Westside events planner who cofounded the march with television producer Deena Katz out of a co-working space in Playa Vista many, many news cycles ago.

Will this year’s march draw crowds as large as the first two? Probably not, Guereca says. But she expects it will help set the agenda for the next presidential election.

Has the Farrakhan controversy been a problem for Women’s March Los Angeles, and how are you addressing it?

Of course it’s been a problem. We’re addressing it by identifying the issue and posting our stance on our website, but also organizing from within by speaking to our partners in our community. The rhetoric of anti-Semitism affected us. Both Deena and I are practicing Jewish women. The reason we started organizing is because we didn’t want to get left out. And so we’re making sure that our community knows who we are — we’ve always been a separate entity, from day one — and that we’re also dealing with local L.A. and California issues, and that’s what we’ve been doing for the past two years.

Have you been encountering fatigue or complacency since the Blue Wave?

I believe that will affect us. Some people ask, “Why are you marching, you got women into office?” We want to make sure that it’s not a fad. If we are talking about equality and being 50/50, it’s going to take more than one midterm election. We have our sights set on 2020. I think 2019 is a year to regroup and restructure so that we can come in strong for 2020. We’d love to see female candidates. We’d love to see a female president.

Why is the theme of the march “Truth to Power”?

We have a new governor. Kamala Harris might be running for president. We have Katie Hill in a congressional seat, and Katie Porter in Orange County. For us, speaking truth to power is holding our politicians accountable and making them know that if you do not stand with our communities, we will vote you out.

Why should people keep marching?

It’s important because we, as women, had been silent for so long. It’s also important because you don’t win elections by sitting on the sidelines in between years. We have to have our ears to the ground and continue to organize. When people sit it out, we’ve seen what happens. This is a marathon, and we need to continue putting in the miles every day if we want to see ourselves in the White House in 2020 as women.

Does it matter if turnout isn’t as strong?

I think we’re successful if we bring out our community. Do we need the numbers we’ve had previously? No.
But we do need engaged citizens, both men and women. It’s not about numbers, it’s about impact. And California, we’ve had impact.

Women’s March Los Angeles begins at 9 a.m. in Pershing Square and concludes at 2 p.m. outside L.A. City Hall. Visit womensmarchla.org for more information and a list of speakers.