Residents in Humboldt County, California, won't be taking to the streets for their annual Women's March this January, after organizers canceled the local event over concerns that it would be "overwhelmingly white."
In a statement announcing the decision, organizers of the local Women's March chapter said that it had noticed that its past events had lacked diversity, "representation from several perspectives in our community," and "crucial voices."
Instead of holding the Jan. 19 rally, the group said it will use its time and energy "for outreach."
"This decision was made after many conversations between local social-change organizers and supporters of the march," the organizers wrote in a Facebook post. "Instead of pushing forward with crucial voices absent, the organizing team will take time for more outreach."
In follow-up comments on Facebook, leaders explained that they hoped to retool and home in on an event "around International Women's Day" in March.
That initiative "already has momentum," wrote Beth Ann Wylie, who posted the initial announcement. "Could be possible to ramp those up with a rally and march as part of the week's events. Lets talk!"
Known for its dense redwood forests and potent cannabis, Humboldt County is predominantly white, middle-class, and rural. About 74% of the area identifies as non-Hispanic white and about half the population is female, according to the US Census Bureau. Hillary Clinton won the county with 58.3% of the vote in the 2016 presidential race.
Since its inception, the Women's March has struggled with questions about race and diversity, both among the national leadership and in local chapters around the country. And as the organization prepares to hold its third annual Women's March rallies next month, several of its leaders have been mired in a controversy over their ties to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, a black nationalist known for his anti-Semitic views.
In November, Teresa Shook, one of the founders, called for several co-chairs to step down because they had "steered the Movement away from its true course."
"I have waited, hoping they would right the ship. But they have not. In opposition to our Unity Principles, they have allowed anti-Semitism, anti- LBGTQIA sentiment and hateful, racist rhetoric to become a part of the platform by their refusal to separate themselves from groups that espouse these racist, hateful beliefs," Shook wrote on Facebook. "I pledge to support grassroots, decentralized leadership promoting a safe, worldwide community devoid of hate speech, bigotry and racism."
In Humboldt County, reaction to the march cancellation was mixed among the nearly 400 members of the Eureka-based group, with some applauding and others criticizing the decision. The move had been rumored for weeks, following a December gathering that the group held to "decide the march's fate," according to a Facebook post.
"Maybe I am confused about what the March is for, what it is trying to make a statement about. But I think cancelling it may end up being losing sight of the good in the quest for the perfect," one member of the chapter's Facebook group wrote. "Please reconsider, and do so without in any way closing the door to people of varied backgrounds and cultures who want to become organizers."
"Our crowd wasn't brown enough? Wasn't queer enough? Wasn't transgender enough?" another woman queried.
Another person said he was "saddened to hear that the March is off for 1/19. Isn’t there still time to reach out to minority groups and make this event more inclusive?"
Representatives from the national organization and the Humboldt chapter did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' requests for comment.