Per Frank Episale (and also receiving a mention in the Village Voice), Reverend Billy Talen has been busted for a protest inside of JP Morgan Chase awhile ago. There’s a great account here. The short form is here, from Blake Zidell, Talen’s publicist:
On the eve of a run of shows by Reverend Billy & The Stop Shopping Choir, at Joe’s Pub Nov 24 – Dec 22, the Reverend (William Talen) and his music director, Neremiah Luckett, are facing a year in prison and $30k bail. Criminal charges are for a recent performance the Choir, costumed as extinct toads, gave in a JP Morgan Chase bank in Manhattan.
The performance was part of a series of actions by the Choir in bank branches, protesting banks’ role in financing CO2-emitting industries. In these actions, the singers inhabit the character of Golden Toads, a small amphibian forced into extinction by extreme climate change in Central America in the late 80s. Throughout the 15-minute surprise performance at Chase, the choir sang their song “We Surround You,” which is dedicated to threatened animals in the era of climate change. Reverend Billy preached a short sermon based on research showing Chase Bank to be the world’s top disrupter of the atmosphere by its investments in fossil fuel industrial projects. After the performance, the choir and Reverend Billy left the bank and entered the subway. Police apprehended them on the F Train platform.
(There’s a great picture of the action on the Village Voice blog).
Let that sink in. We’re past the point when the banksters who wrecked the economy can be prosecuted thanks to the statute of limitations clock running down. And we have never seen a bankster indicted, much less jailed, for being part of a system that pulled a minimum $22 Trillion out of the US economy in 2008. But protesting at a bank can net you a year in jail.
As someone who likes sticking up for troublesome members of the Clergy (real and imitation), I have special affection for Reverend Billy and his unique brand of activism. It’s sort of like throwing pies without the dry-cleaning bills. And I know that part of the problem here is that there aren’t ENOUGH protests–the more people who are protesting, the better the chances are that no one can get hit with big jail sentences. It’s a conundrum that has been true for years.
I know that one of Reverend Billy’s pet peeves has been the retailing chains–I’m sure it was a special thrill for Talen and his allies when they found out that Starbucks had mentioned Reverend Billy by name in their Manager’s guide (in fact he titled his book accordingly). But maybe it’s time to franchise the Reverend Billy brand. There’s only so much one branch of the Church of Stop Shopping can do.