Ever since the election, dozens of protest websites have sprung up, each one focusing on a different way of resisting the Trump administration. There are so many suggestions of useful things to do that one can easily become overwhelmed with all the choices and end up doing … exactly nothing.
Enter Wall of Us, a somewhat whimsical activist website created by two Berkeley friends that attempts to cut through the clutter. The site’s mission is “to make it simply irresistible for Americans to become active participants in rebuilding our democracy.” To achieve this goal, every Sunday the site posts and sends out four (and only four) suggested actions for the coming week.
“We research the most timely things occurring on a national and local basis at the moment, and focus on those,” said Kara Ganter, one of the site’s co-founders. Of course, with the chaos emanating from Washington on a daily basis, selecting just four things is not easy. But Ganter and her co-founder, Amelia Miazad, consult with a group of leaders who host other action-related websites and attempt to collaborate and consolidate efforts. “We have talked to the IndivisibleGuide.com guys about how we can support each other, and we talk to flippable.org and SwingLeft.org and lots of others” on regular conference calls, Ganter said.
(Another site to check out is one put together by the organizers of the Women’s March: Hear Our Voice: 10 Actions in the first 100 days.)
For the week of Feb. 13, the site’s suggested actions included sending some love to Senator Elizabeth Warren who was silenced last week “by Senate Republicans who invoked a rarely-used senate rule to prevent her from reading a letter written by Dr. King’s widow criticizing Jeff Sessions;” to keep calling Congressional representatives to demand an ethics investigation into “national security advisor Michael Flynn’s sloppy and shady dealings with Russia, among other demands;” to boycott Trump; and make a plan to visit your members of Congress in February.
“He promised a wall,” the site’s home page reads, “he will be stopped by a wall of us.” Unlike many of the other sites — which are often some variation of red, white and blue (or just white and blue) — Wall of Us presents visitors with a riot of colors. It is a very visually stimulating site because, Ganter wrote, “even a website about resisting ugly policies should be pretty.”
Ganter has journalism and law degrees from the University of Wisconsin and she’s trained in instructional design, educational technology, and pedagogy. So it’s not surprising that she is also well versed in the demographics of her audience. “The major followers of social media are women,” she said. “80 percent of Facebook and Twitter users are women, so if we analyze our subscribers we would find a similar distribution.”
“I feel like we are providing a voice to a group of people in this country who were gutted by this election: it was and is traumatic,” she said. “We wanted to create a voice and an avenue that is particularly appealing to women.” The goal was to “make activism look nice. It’s a place where we can express our humanity: the last thing we need is an ugly website!”
While Ganter is deadly serious about her mission, she also has a sense of humor that is refreshing in these dark times. Her on-line bio says that she grew up in rural Wisconsin, “where it is not polite to talk about politics and the most appropriate way to deal with feelings is crying in the shower.” When that stopped working for her post-election, “she decided an alternate coping strategy was necessary.”
This coping strategy ultimately became Wall of Us, which she created along with her friend and fellow UC Berkeley School of Law staffer Miazad. According to her on-line bio, Miazad “is an Afghan-born American girl (no birth certificate folks, you’ll just have to trust her) who became even more true-blue after the November 8th election. In addition to practicing law, Amelia has founded non-profits and led higher educational programs, initiatives, and social enterprises.”
So in addition to their full-time jobs, the two friends now work almost full-time on Wall of Us. The site was originally launched in late November of 2016 to a small social media following as well as family and friends. It grew to 15,000 subscribers within a week and now has over 50,000 subscribers. “We were not prepared for that: it was a shock, but also an amazing feeling,” Ganter said. “We were just hoping we’d send out an email to a couple of hundred friends and family, and that was it.”
Ganter and Miazad work to amplify the work of other resistance websites, although they personally “curate” the specific actions recommended every week. “Not everyone has time to show up at their Senator’s office every day, or spend a ton of time being an activist,” Ganter said. She hopes that the site will double as an instructional tool, “educating the next generation of Americans about the political process, and helping them get involved.”
Ganter notes that many people in the 18-25 age group have not been engaged in politics, and didn’t pay much attention before the election. “We really need to reach out to that demographic,” she says. “In order for our democracy to thrive, we need to get through to them somehow. We need to have an app, make it fun, have little videos. Democratic activism hasn’t done that before, but we need to interact in a new way.”
In addition, Ganter and Miazad want to work with other Berkeley experts in the future to teach people about law and activism — “polite activism” — and how to run for office. “If you don’t like what’s happening, get involved,” Ganter said.