17 November 2013

Keep Reverend Billy Talen out of jail, charged with "riot" and "menace" for 15-min Chase Bank lobby "Exctinction Sermon" performance

Keep Reverend Billy Talen out of jail, charged with "riot" and "menace" for 15-min Chase Bank lobby "Exctinction Sermon" performance

On a Thursday afternoon last month, a dozen singing activists from the Church of Stop Shopping in NYC performed in the role of extinct Golden Toads in a "wealth management bank" of JPMorgan Chase at 56th and 6th in Manhattan. The dancing, singing toads offered bank workers and customers information sheets about the impact of Chase investments on the environment.

Reverend Billy Talen and the music director of the Stop Shopping Choir, Nehemiah Luckett, were arrested minutes later on a subway platform. The two were charged with riot in the second degree, menacing in the third degree, unlawful assembly, and two counts of disorderly conduct. The DA's office requested one year in prison for "this criminal stunt." But Atty. Wylie Stecklow, defending the two activists, insisted that the "15 minutes of performance art about the Earth's crisis" was well within "expressive political activity" protected by the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution. The lawyers went back and forth: "Art!" "Crime!" "Art!" "Crime!" "Art!"

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