ALERT: Beware of Reverend Billy
On Saturday, October 11, the Reverend Billy Talen and his crew landed in St. Louis. They texted their Ferguson friends as they walked from the gate. Ferguson was recently the site of major protests against police who had shot a young African American male who was unarmed. Billy and his friends went to the baggage claim and kept waiting for the old duffel to roll down the conveyor belt. But it didn't appear. Then they noticed that police and a sniffer-dog were approaching. The police claimed his bag!
What does Billy say about this situation?
"Of course it hadn't occurred to me, coming from the World Bank protest in Washington, DC, that my little duffel bag on wheels has what looks like a START-UP ACTIVIST KIT: a bullhorn, double AA batteries, elvis hair goop and make-up, "Tree Spiker" the memory by Earth First founder Mike Roselle, and spare clothes and Theo's seven foot collapsible camera tripod."
“It gradually, very slowly, occurred to us, that my baggage would be inadmissible to this new nation state of Ferguson. This is the bizarre police problem that we’ve been fighting in NYC for decades. THIS IS NOT A CULTURAL WAR THAT WE SHOULD BE FIGHTING AND ANYWAY YOU ARE POLICE AND THE CONSTITUTION IS YOUR SCRIPT.
If I have a bullhorn in my luggage and that is a cultural signal to you that I might be capable of speaking to a gathering of citizens, exercising the most basic 1st Amendment right of expressive politics, that doesn’t matter to you under the law.
You do not have the right to declare Ferguson a 1st Amendment-free zone. You serve the United States Constitution, as do we all. You can determine very quickly that there is nothing illegal in my things, and let me do my work.
Anyway, I didn’t come to Ferguson to preach. I came to learn. I preached yesterday in Washington, DC against the World Bank, with the worldwide myriad of culture that cried to those bankers from the heart.
What an amazing experience. I don’t need a bullhorn to talk about it.
Reverend Billy Talen”