Occupiers, journalists and anons alike watched their twitter timeline with a sense of unfolding horror overnight as Justine Tunney, an employee of Google, announced she was ‘taking back’ not only the @occupywallst twitter handle, but apparently the movement itself.

So, for most, it all started with this tweet.

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And why was Justine stepping in?  Well…in her own words:

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After taking over the account and apparently blocking access to any other administrators, Justine went on a twitter rampage.  Some of her ideas were fairly lucid, some were common sense and interesting, but there was a toxic overtone of ego.  For many who find a home in Occupy, the distribution of leadership amongst all of those who choose to show up is one of, if not the, singular defining attribute.  So, having anyone, trans woman, cis woman, trans man, cis man, show up and say ‘Hey, I built this and now I am taking it back’ comes as something of a slap in the face.

So here is some of what Justine has been saying via @occupywallst.

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And some of her beliefs…

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So who on earth is Justine Tunney? She describes herself as a ‘champagne tranarchist’ on her Google+ profile.  She is a Google exec, owner of occupywallst.org (commonly known as Storg) and according to her, the founder of Occupy Wall Street.  A Common Dreams article from last September notes:

The day after Adbusters issued its July 13, 2011, call to “#occupywallstreet,” Tunney registered the Storg domain. She’d recently cashed out of a tech company she helped start and moved from Philadelphia to Washington. But on weekends, she began coming up to New York for the General Assembly’s early planning meetings. Almost from the outset, she found herself at odds with the tumultuous assembly, which had destroyed its own initial website and wanted control over hers. She refused and was labeled an authoritarian by many as a result.

But that’s not how others remember it.  Alexa O’Brien (one of the world’s finest resources on the Bradley Manning case and lighting twitter as up with common sense on a daily basis as @carwinb) reminded twitter users of the following:

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Justine has made several forays into the press with Occupy in the past.  She set up a crowd fund project to raise $1m to create what she termed a ‘non-violent militia’ of activists.  The money would be used to pay activists and deck them out in protective gear to face down police.  She also wrote a piece entitled “Stop Using Consensus” where she mischaracterised consensus (a system Occupy uses in varying forms across the globe to allow members of the assembly to veto proposals they feel undermine the founding principles) calling it the ‘tyranny of the individual’ .  The piece drew a response from Occupier, anthropologist and London School of Economics Professor David Graeber, who wrote:

The description is wrong even if we had been using absolute consensus (an approach nowadays rarely used in groups of over 20 or 30 people), since consensus is not a system of unanimous voting, it’s a system where any participant has the right to veto a proposal which they consider either to violate some fundamental principle, or which they object to so fundamentally that proceeding would cause them to quit the group. If we can have people who have been involved with OWS from the very beginning who still don’t know that much, but think consensus is some kind of “strict” unanimous voting system, we’ve got a major problem. How could anyone have worked with OWS that long and still remained apparently completely unaware of the basic principles under which we were supposed to be operating?

When quizzed on her relationship to Google.  She was defiant.

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Response to the hijack has been almost, but not entirely, negative.  A whole new hashtag was formed called #IFoundedOccupyWallSt to capture some of the responses, which range from amusement to spitting rage.

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The Occupied Wall Street Journal Facebook page issued a statement which gained broad approval, writing:

The Occupied Wall Street Journal was itself a participation in a participatory movement. It wasn’t “founded” to represent that movement, but build it. If it had become personal property, it would have defeated the purpose.

Thousands of contributors made it possible for an autonomous media to reach literally millions of people. But it didn’t make those of us producing it into the spokespeople of this movement or the political leaders of it by virtue of our good timing (and hard work).

Occupy as a basic concept is about engaging the world, not making claims on it. Especially not property or other entitlement claims to the work of other people. As Cornel West put it: “Occupy is leaderless and leaderful.”

Occupy Wall Street didn’t have “founders.”

So they key issues here seem to be the conflict between Tunney’s paid employment and advocacy of Google, who have been found to be complicit in the NSA surveillance programmes on US citizens (and around the world).  There is also the matter of her self-proclaimed founder status over the Occupy Movement, which stands at odds with the perception of many within the movement.  Her claims to be setting the movement back in the right direction, without consultation, have also caused rancour.  And of course, there is always the possibility that this is one awesome kamikaze move by an infiltrator to detonate the movement from within.  But the bottom line is, Justine Tunney is less popular than Scarlett Johansson among Occupiers right now – and if she is going to maintain the twitter account and following, she needs to eat a big slice of humble pie and learn to play in a team.  There is no I in Occupy.

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About The Author

Kerry-anne Mendoza is a writer, blogger and activist. She is the author of the Scriptonite Daily blog which explores matters of current affairs, politics, economics and ideas. She is also a contributor to New Internationalist, openDemocracy, Trebuchet Magazine, the Occupy News Network and others. She is based in the UK, and left her career as a Management Consultant having held senior positions in banking, local government and the NHS to be part of the Occupy Movement. She has since worked as a writer and campaigner for social, economic and environmental justice.