Shortly after the 2016 presidential election, a new political voice emerged in Venice. They activated hundreds to gather outside Google headquarters last year to stop an alt-right rally in the wake of Charlottesville. They held sign making parties and canvassed local neighborhoods to drum up participation in Women’s March L.A. They hosted “Flip the House” phone-banking meet-ups during the primaries. And for more than 2,500 Instagram followers, Venice Resistance has become a fixture of daily existential dives into the depths of the Internet.
The woman behind this new grassroots global citizenship push is Venice resident Maria Casey, whose day job is running the independent business consulting and digital marketing agency MCA Partners.
“I have a five-year-old daughter and I was terrified of her having to grow up in a world that was, in my opinion, going completely backwards,” says Casey. “So I wanted to make sure that we were able to do something to create a safe community. I figured that with all the resources we have in Venice, there’s no reason why we can’t build up Venice to be a model community for Los Angeles, for Southern California — to show that here is a melting pot of so many different types of people and classes, and everyone’s together in peace and in harmony. That’s really where it all came from.”
Born in Ecuador and raised in the Midwest by “international activist parents,” Casey says that an organizing streak runs in her blood.
“My dad was so involved in international business that at dinner we were always talking about world issues, foreign policy, all kinds of stuff like that. I ended up joining the Peace Corps after college and lived in Bangladesh,” she says.
After that, Casey worked in startups for 15 years, bringing her business savvy and marketing know-how to companies such as Fox Broadcasting and the Disney-backed storytelling platform Playbuzz. She is also an advisor for VINA (“Tinder for girlfriends”). But 2016 reactivated her interest not only in national politics (she canvassed for Obama in Ohio in 2008), but also issues closer to home, such as homelessness.
“There were so many local micro-issues specific to Venice that didn’t relate to any of these other neighborhoods,” says Casey. “So that’s where we decided to keep it [going].”
The group currently has about 1,500 core members, with whom Casey communicates via Instagram, a private Facebook group and an email newsletter. Considering the infiltration of fake news and misinformation into all our feeds, the irony that Venice Resistance activates itself through social media isn’t lost on Casey. But she remains hopeful about digital media’s power to ignite civic engagement.
“People follow us because I think it’s unique and they trust the messages that we’re giving. They know that there are people behind it. … And I think that’s really the trick — being authentic in your message and your voice,” she says. “The goal is to make it easy for people to take action.”
— Christina Campodonico