What The ACLU Is Doing Right Now With Their Massive, $24 Million In Donations

Flush with $24 million, the “unsexy” nonprofit just debuted a shiny new social platform

It’s amazing what a group of Americans scorned can do.

In January, following President Trump’s first attempt at implementing a travel ban meant to block people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, Americans took to airports, to the streets, and to social media to express their dismay.

They also reached for their wallets. Over a single weekend in January, the American Civil Liberties Union received more than 350,000 online donations totaling $24 million, or just over 6 times the amount it typically raises in one year.

Not long after, the ACLU announced it joined Y Combinator, an investment firm which provides seed funding and unprecedented access to Silicon Valley advisors. Now, just a few weeks later, comes People Power, a new web platform made with the ambitious goal to change the way people take political action across the nation.

“People sense the existential threat that Trump poses to our democracy,” says Karthik Ganapathy, spokesperson for the ACLU’s new project.

The “cities of resistance” platform is the creation of Faiz Shakir, once senior adviser to former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, and now the ACLU’s national political director. Shakir joined the ACLU two months ago, right as Donald Trump was getting ready to take office, and as the ACLU strategized its next steps with public outreach.

“People are looking at the ACLU to lead the resistance to Trump,” says Ganapathy.

For nearly a century, the ALCU has focused its work and attention on legal strategy, or as Ganapathy puts it, “doing aggressively unsexy work of fighting cases in courtrooms.” That work has included taking legal action against President Trump moments after he took office, and just this week filing an ethics complaint against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which asks the Alabama State Bar to investigate if he committed perjury in his confirmation hearing when he allegedly lied under oath claiming to have never met with Russian officials.

While all of that work is imperative to keeping our government leaders in check, the social action nonprofit is looking to give some of their power and responsibility back to average citizens.

“We need to couple legal power with people power,” says Ganapathy, “we need to be fighting on all fronts here.”

[quote position="left" is_quote="true"]The main idea behind People Power is to become a one-stop shop for resisters.[/quote]

An early version of the platform launches on Saturday, March 11, with meetups organized around the country. In total, Ganapathy says, there are 2,300 events happening in all 50 states. The ACLU claims more than 130,000 people have signed up to take part alread, exceeding the group’s own internal goal of 1,000 meetings.

The main idea behind People Power is to become a one-stop shop for resisters to “defend sanctuary cities, resist deportation raids, oppose the Muslim Ban, maintain Planned Parenthood funding, and support other priorities,” as the ACLU explains. The platform will support and work to amplify organic, bottom-up grassroots actions and be a one stop resource and place for listings on all ACLU related meetups.

On Saturday, volunteers will explain the roll out of People Power as well as a breakdown of nine ordinances set forth by the ACLU and will ask attendees to present them to their local officials.

As Shakir said:

“We will be asking people to arrange a meeting with their sheriff or their police commissioner or their local precinct commander and raise these draft ordinances at that meeting. And have them discuss what their policies are with respect to immigrants. That would form the basis for follow-up meetings and follow-up policy advocacy.”

While Ganapathy urges anyone who can physically attend a local event to do so, those people looking to get involved but can’t make it out can also take part via a livestream of any of the events on the People Power site. And the resistance will not end then either.

“This is not a one-off event. Saturday is the beginning of the long haul,” Ganapathy says. “We’re going to need to dig in. Saturday is the start of a long campaign.”

As more and more people begin to feel the effects of Trump fatigue, meetings like those put on by People Power will become increasingly important to the fight for social change. The very thought of thousands of Americans banning together on their day off to discuss how they will resist bigotry and engage with local leaders is at least a start, says Ganapathy who adds, “It’s the first thing that’s felt like hope.”


The Justice Department sent immigration judges a white nationalist blog post

The blog post was from an "anti-immigration hate website."

Attorney General William Barr via Wikimedia Commons

Department of Justice employees were stunned this week when the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) sent court employees a morning briefing that contained a link to a "news" item on VDare, a white nationalist website.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, VDare is an "anti-immigration hate website" that "regularly publishes articles by prominent white nationalists, race scientists and anti-Semites." The website was established in 1999 by its editor Peter Brimelow.

The morning briefing is distributed to all EOIR employees on a daily basis, including all 440 immigration judges across the U.S.

Keep Reading Show less
via Smithfly.com

"Seventy percent of the Earth is covered with water, now you camp on it!" proudly declares Smithfly on the website for its new camping boat — the Shoal Tent.

Why have we waited so long for camping equipment that actually lets us sleep on the water? Because it's an awful idea, that's why.

Keep Reading Show less

We've all felt lonely at some point in our lives. It's a human experience as universal as happiness, sadness or even hunger. But there's been a growing trend of studies and other evidence suggesting that Americans, and people in general, are feeling more lonely than ever.

It's easy to blame technology and the way our increasingly online lives have further isolated us from "real" human interactions. The Internet once held seemingly limitless promise for bringing us together but seems to be doing just the opposite.

Except that's apparently not true at all. A major study from Cigna on loneliness found that feelings of isolation and loneliness are on the rise amongst Americans but the numbers are nearly identical amongst those who use social media and those who don't. Perhaps more importantly, the study found five common traits amongst those who don't feel lonely.

Keep Reading Show less

He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

He risked his life to leave a "historical record of our martyrdom."

via Yad Vashem and Archive of Modern Conflict, 2007

In September 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland. By April 1940, the gates closed on the Lodz Ghetto, the second largest in the country after Warsaw.

Throughout the war, over 210,000 people would be imprisoned in Lodz.

Among those held captive was Henryk Ross. He was a Jewish sports photographer before the Nazi invasion and worked for the the ghetto's Department of Statistics during the war. As part of his official job, he took identification photos of the prisoners and propaganda shots of Lodz' textile and leather factories.

Keep Reading Show less
WITI Milwaukee

Joey Grundl, a pizza delivery driver for a Domino's Pizza in Waldo, Wisconsin, is being hailed as a hero for noticing a kidnapped woman's subtle cry for help.

The delivery man was sent to a woman's house to deliver a pie when her ex-boyfriend, Dean Hoffman, opened the door. Grundl looked over his shoulder and saw a middle-aged woman with a black eye standing behind Hoffman. She appeared to be mouthing the words: "Call the police."

"I gave him his pizza and then I noticed behind him was his girlfriend," Grundl told WITI Milwaukee. "She pointed to a black eye that was quite visible. She mouthed the words, 'Call the police.'"

Keep Reading Show less
Good News