What appeared to be between 800 and 1,000 mostly women marched through the streets of D.C. on Friday afternoon from McPherson Square to Dupont Circle in the first Dyke March in the nation’s capital since 2007.
The women marchers, many of whom wore bright yellow t-shirts bearing the words “Dyke March,” and a minority of male supporters, were greeted with cheers by many bystanders along the route of the march who emerged from shops and restaurants to watch the march.
A controversial decision by march organizers to request that participants not display “nationalist” flags or symbols, including the Israeli flag or the Jewish Pride flag, which consists of a Star of David superimposed over a rainbow flag, was ignored by a number of marchers who carried those flags.
A contingent of Dyke March volunteer marshals who helped D.C. police stop traffic to allow the march to cross streets along its route made no attempt to stop the relatively small number of marchers from carrying the Israeli flag or the Jewish Pride flag.
Organizers said during the week prior to the march that the Jewish Pride flag closely resembles the Israeli flag and they were concerned that such flags would make Palestinian women participating in the march uncomfortable. The organizers angered some Jewish lesbian activists and others planning to join the march when they said they would make an exception to the ban on nationalist symbols and flags by allowing the Palestinian flag to be displayed in the march.
Mary Claire Phillips, a Dyke March organizer who served as a spokesperson for the march, told the Washington Blade at McPherson Square prior to the start of the march that critics were unfairly portraying march organizers on social media of being anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic.
“The Dyke March is very, very pro-Jewish. We owe a lot of what’s going on to Jewish organizers,” Phillips said. “And it’s awful that things have been said that we don’t want Jewish marchers and Jewish dykes to join us,” she said.
“But when we talk to our peers who we have been organizing with over the past few months we understand that we’re all on the same page,” Phillips said. “I don’t think it’s very unusual for a left organization to be pro-Palestinian and pro-Jewish. And I don’t think those things have to be mutually exclusive,” said Phillips, adding, “We stand by our decision to be both pro-Jewish and pro-Palestinian.”
During a rally held in Dupont Circle after the march ended there, none of the speakers mentioned the dispute over whether certain flags should be allowed to be displayed in the march.
Several of the speakers talked about the issue of displacement of D.C. residents due to gentrification and the skyrocketing cost of living in the city, which Dyke March organizers said was one of the march’s’ main issues.
Two speakers associated with D.C. tenant organizations said “rent strikes” were being planned in some parts of the city where tenants were being forced out of their apartments due to rising rent and real estate development.
Organizers didn’t disclose the route of the march until the time of the kickoff in McPherson Square, when organizers were seen talking to officers with the D.C. Police LGBT Liaison Unit. As participants marched out of McPherson Square and proceeded west on I Street, N.W., a D.C. police cruiser drove ahead of the marchers and police closed the streets ahead of the march to make way for marchers to proceed unimpeded by traffic.
The march traveled along I Street to 17th Street, where it turned right and proceeded to Connecticut Avenue. It traveled north along Connecticut Avenue to Dupont Circle.
Among the messages displayed on the multitude of signs carried by marchers were “Black Lives Matter,” “Dykes for Rent Strikes,” “Stop Murdering Black Trans Women,” “We Love Dyke Daughters,” “D.C. Dykes Love Trans Dykes,” and “Queer Liberation, Not Rainbow Capitalism.”
One man standing on the side of the street on Connecticut Avenue held a large sign saying, “I love my Dyke Daughter! Marching Dykes stop here for water.”