Justine Tunney is a New York-based software engineer at Google, but she’s also a prolific activist who was and continues to be instrumental to the Occupy Wall Street movement. A “transgender anarchist,” she founded OccupyWallStreet.org and continues to maintain the @OccupyWallSt Twitter handle; her Github account has an Occupy Wall Street specific repository that boasts the tagline, “Stomping out capitalism, one line of code at a time.” And she also has an interesting new approach to crowdfunding.
Today, Ms. Tunney tweeted about a potential crowdfunding project that would raise $1 million to form a nonviolent militia:
Several followers immediately took issue with the term “nonviolent militia,” which they found oxymoronic. But Ms. Tunney insisted that “you can be militant and nonviolent,” and the militia would create “a disciplined group of 100+ in NYC who can show up in a minute for hard, effective direct actions.” The money would go towards paying militia members and purchasing body armor to protect against the NYPD.
“Crowdfunding is a democratic model for creating large projects in general and creating new institutions in society,” Ms. Tunney told Betabeat by phone. “So I’m thinking, ‘Why can’t we apply this idea to create a militia or an army?’ In many ways I think that if this works it could be the first true people’s army. The militia would seek no political power for itself other than to dismantle power structures.” (The idea has since been endorsed by Occupy Wall Street founder and former Adbusters editor Micah White.)
Though the project certainly wouldn’t fly on Kickstarter, it’s unclear whether or not a less stringent crowdfunding platform like Indiegogo would accept it–as long as it doesn’t “promote violence” and the money isn’t used to purchase weapons, it could technically abide by Indiegogo’s Terms. Ms. Tunney stressed that Kickstarter would be the ideal place for the project, noting that she’d prefer to only collect what was raised if she hits the fundraising goal. “We really like the Kickstarter brand and model,” she said.
Of course, “Google engineers” isn’t exactly the underclass Occupy Wall Street rose up to defend–and it’s probably pretty difficult to “stomp out capitalism” when you’re essentially working for The Man. But Ms. Tunney insists her work at Google, where she’s helping to build the system that’s going to run Google’s generic top level domains, is completely separate from her activism. She notes that she decided to join Google only after she was diagnosed with cancer.
“I got cancer and I decided, ‘Okay, I can’t do this whole being a homeless couch surfing activist anymore,” she said. “I gotta get a job. I gotta sell out. So I figured I might as well sell out to the one corporation I don’t hate and that’s Google. I believe that even though they operate within a capitalist system, they still do the most good throughout the world. I respect Google and I’m not just trying to fuck it up from the inside, I don’t believe in that.”
“They in no way endorse this message,” Ms. Tunney added. “This idea is my own.”
Updated 12:30 pm to add Ms. Tunney’s quotes