Reverend Billy: Harrassed. Arrested. Arraigned.
Billy Talen has honed his skills and become a powerful disruptive force of social conscience, whether he is saving souls corrupted by consumerism, or pleading for mercy on behalf of bees, or condemning police sinners who use their arms against innocent victims. Recently, the system retaliated.....
Reverend Billy & The Stop Shopping Choir comprise a radical performance community of 50 performing members and a congregation in the thousands.
"We are wild anti-consumerist gospel shouters and Earth loving urban activists who have worked with communities all over the world defending community, life and imagination. We compel action in those who have never been activist, revive exhausted activists, and devise new methods for future activism. We also put on a great show."
Sometimes, performance antics collide with real-life threats and punishment:
January, 2015. Reverend Billy Talen was delivering one of his bombastic sermons during a 24-hour #BlackLivesMatter vigil at Grand Central Station in Manhattan. He and his congregationists were protesting the deaths of Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, and other African American youths who had been killed by police. Strewn about the floor at the event was an array of placards bearing the names of victims of police brutality. Minutes into his sermon police began confiscating the placards. Talen was arrested.
According to the criminal complaint, he “yelled at officers who tried to remove the signs” and “push[ed]” a police inspector “as Inspector Sean Montgomery held his arms out in an attempt to keep the crowd under control.”
February 26: At an appearance at Manhattan Criminal Court in front of Judge Ann Scherzer, Assistant District Attorney Gabriel Hippolyte requested an “ACD,” or adjournment to contemplate dismissal, for Reverend Billy Talen. Talen faced charges of disorderly conduct and obstructing government administration stemming from a January anti-racism protest at Grand Central Terminal.
“New York City police stop protests they don’t like by cuffing us, 700 of us or one of us, put us in the Tombs or a bus garage overnight, then offer credit for time served and freedom from jail time if we plead guilty,” said Reverend Billy.
Manhattan District Attorney’s Office decided not to dismiss the case. In court, Reverend Billy waived his right to file any motion, requested a short adjournment and a trial date. The case is now set for trial on March 10, 2015.
Talen Laments, “I feel the large shadow of the justice system. So racist and arbitrary and – such a mystifying subculture. I have lawyers who are friends, but even they flabbergast me. The courts are a place to stay out of, and I’ve failed to. I’m in it. I’m in the system now.“