He calls himself Reverend Billy, the pastor of the Church of Earthalujah–otherwise known as the Church of Stop Shopping Now. And when he and his “choir master” Nehemiah Luckett, appear in a New York City court on December 9th, they could end up spending a year in jail.
The comic activist, whose real name is Bill Talen, performs street theater to protest consumerism and climate change. One Saturday afternoon last June, he and eight members of the choir dressed as golden toads, an animal that went extinct due to climate change 30 years ago, showed up at a Chase Bank branch in Manhattan to protest of the bank’s financing of industries Talen says are destroying the earth (see YouTube video of the performance below):
“Who caused Hurricane Sandy?” Talen shouted through a microphone in the bank lobby. “Chase Bank did, if anybody did!”
JPMorgan Chase & Company was not amused and quickly contacted the police. Talen and Luckett were arrested minutes later while standing on a subway platform. The duo was charged with riot in the second degree, menacing in the third degree, unlawful assembly and two counts of disorderly conduct.
Talen’s lawyer says their 15-minute performance at the bank constitutes “expressive political activity,” which is protected by the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution.
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