You Have To Change

safe_image-1.jpgTelling the public that the peace-makers are violent is such an old tactic by regimes like Stalin and Hitler - how could the police in New York still think that kind of strategic defamation works. WE ARE NOT YOUR POLITICAL OPPONENTS. We are taxpaying citizens who pay your salary. American freedoms have come from protesters as much as police - but both are guarantors of our life in this country, and in this particular case, in Grand Central Station on January 6th, both the protesters and the police were peaceful. There was no need to slander me. You are not winning with this behavior. You need to admit that the epidemic of deadly assault against people of color by police is real. This is not disrespect. This is heartfelt and responsible. Ask your own black cops. You have to change.

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The Chokehold, the Submachine Gun and This Bit of Earth

10430824_10152534223225974_1683937324955662428_n.jpgHow did they persuade us that the inches of Earth, the sq millimeters of ground were we stand, the where-I-am-now... How could they threaten us and tell us to MOVE ON. Thank god the Ferguson brothers and sisters claimed their 50 ft. patch of sidewalk in front of the Ferguson police station. Thank you for shouting "Black Lives Matter" from that spot and you never let go. That's the courage that will keep us all going for years. You claimed that ground in that unknown township on the north side of St Louis and shouted until you were blowing up headlines. 

And Thank The Earth for Erica Garner laying down on the sidewalk in Staten Island, the ultimate die-in, inhabiting the last breaths of her dad, she drives the activism in us. We can do anything now! 

How were we EVER threatened into leaving our patch of Earth. We're supposed to believe that it's not public property or we are suppose to fill out a permit and wait six weeks? No it's FIRST AMENDMENT TIME! We're here on this Earth and we're not gonna get into the game of petitioning and lobbying and emailing in the distance somewhere from a computer. We're here on this ground and people on the street see us and free speech is magical and no cop or congressman or corporation can possibly move me off my spot. The longer we have our place the more our voices ring out! Now put down that submachine gun and let's talk about climate change and our kids. We're staying here on this Earth.
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In A Word: Consumerism

safe_image-2.jpgProducers and consumers grow farther apart as sales increase. Consumers are increasingly isolated from each other. Profits create opposition and opposition creates profit. No type of consumer is ever more important than THE ENEMY.

War is crucial to Consumerism. Militarism demands the largest products and the longest distribution lines. Intimacies within wars arise but they are closely monitored, bands of brothers may save each other’s lives but only after the products have exploded.

All the Apocalypses come from separation. The more terrible The End of the World, the clearer the call to look into each other’s eyes and start something. Earth in me recognizes Earth in you. The Earth wants to reunite.




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Second Gothamist Piece

The Gothamist is where I was identified by name as a person who had "attacked" police officers. This piece was published at about the time I got out of jail, on January 7th, after my sleepover in the Tombs. Turns out - how predictable - the Gothamist writer was taking the violent language from a Murdoch paper, the New York Post, which plays fast and loose with violence, to put it mildly. 

Lauren Evans, who has written both the Gothamist entries, knew I was the one arrested, and so it was here that the false claim of aggression came together with my identity. It was the first place I read it, reading later the accounts in the Post and another Murdoch paper, the Wall Street Journal. Ms. Evans had tried to reach me, but phoned while I was in the Tombs, and then posted the story the next day - so my denial was missing. But it aint missing in this second story!

I want to thank the Gothamist and Lauren Evans for sticking with it and completing the story. When such defamation takes place, you do the best you can to get the counter-story out there. So we want to thank any media that helps us correct the record. The dispiriting thing is that the police and protesters were both peaceful. This slander comes from a professional spin-doctor who works as a spokesperson for the vast transportation agency of New York City, the MTA. He is like a corporate marketer, and doesn't think that his statements might have a human consequence.

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Reverend Billy Files $500k Claim for False Arrest and Defamation at Grand Central Vigil

10933942_10152513634630974_998074694958570578_n-1.jpgFor Immediate Release

January 22, 2015


Marnie Glickman, Communications Director for Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir, 415-259-7121,

Wylie Stecklow, Legal Counsel for William Talen, 212-566-8000 x4,

Reverend Billy Files $500k Claim for False Arrest and Defamation at Grand Central Vigil.

Metropolitan Transit Authority spokesperson told media that the Reverend "got physical" and "attacked police." 

Video, witnesses and DA's charges oppose MTA. 

New York, New York -- In the midst of a 24-hour vigil honoring 170 unarmed civilians killed by police, activist-performer William Talen, also known as “Reverend Billy,” was arrested by Metropolitan Transportation Authority police while delivering a sermon in Grand Central Terminal.  Talen has been charged with disorderly conduct and obstruction of governmental administration.

In the wake of his arrest, the MTA, through spokespersons, alleged that Talen "got physical with police commanders" and was "physically trying to block police officers." Video of the interactions between Talen and MTA police show that Talen did not "get physical" with police officers. 

Reports in the Gothamist, New York Post and Wall Street Journal could not find witnesses to corroborate the charge.  At his court appearance, the District Attorney did not charge Talen with any form of violence, such as felony assault.  The court released Talen on his own recognizance.

"Both the protesters and the police were peaceful that afternoon.  So let’s say that.  Don’t be anti-police and don’t be anti-protester.   We have an epidemic of violence against black people.  That’s the violence," said Talen.

Talen’s attorneys, Wylie Stecklow and Samuel Cohen of Stecklow Cohen & Thompson, are seeking dismissal of the criminal charges levied against Talen.  Talen’s attorneys have also filed a notice of intent to sue the MTA for false arrest, libel, slander, and other related claims on Mr. Talen’s behalf.  

Attorney Wylie Stecklow noted “Reverend Billy is known around the world as a peaceful advocate for the survival of the environment and justice for all.  By falsely accusing him of attacking police, the MTA has branded him as a target and a threat to police, and have jeopardized his safety and harmed his reputation.  The attorneys at Stecklow Cohen & Thompson are committed to clearing Reverend Billy’s name and seeking redress for the violation of his rights by the MTA.”

Attorney Samuel Cohen added “The charges against Reverend Billy are confounding.  Reverend Billy was invited to speak in the twenty-third hour of a twenty-four hour vigil, and was arrested while speaking, essentially for doing the same things that other vigil participants had been doing for the past day without being arrested.  That alone is offensive to due process.  We look forward to vindicating Reverend Billy in the courts.” 

William Talen is both an activist and a stage performer. As "Reverend Billy" he pursues these parallel careers with the 35-voice Stop Shopping Choir under the direction of Savitri D.  Talen and company lead a movement of nonviolent dramatic action, belting out their freedom-fighting lyrics in JP Morgan Chase bank lobbies, Wal-marts and on the front lawn of Monsanto World Headquarters.  

Talen and the Stop Shopping Choir are artists in residence at the Public Theater in New York. After two visits (and one arrest) in Ferguson, Missouri, they mounted their "Monsanto Is The Devil" sold-out run in Joe's Pub at the Public. Talen and Savitri D live together with their daughter in Brooklyn, with many cops as neighbors. For more information, visit


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Turn the power over to life

10854910_10152508097225974_6774338537872307664_o.jpgThe Life Government took office last week with unprecedented powers. On Tuesday a Life team detected glyphocastes drifting on the wind towards a school and the Life enforcers quickly located the source. Monsanto was spraying again, illegally using drones in the form of robotic sea gulls. 

The Life cops swept the toxic birds out of the air with hemp-powered dirigibles designed after African Hawk Eagles. Then Life swarmed Monsanto’s local supply depot, dismantling trucks, pumps, storage tanks. All Monsanto marketing imagery within 500 miles was erased by executive action. Within 48 hours Life reversed the cash flow of Monsanto’s bank, the Vanguard Mutual Fund Group – shooting the money into accounts of the poisoned.... 

Executives in Monsanto’s headquarters in St. Louis were put under house arrest, their computer messaging flown to the Chelsea Manning Institute of Technology for disencryption. The company’s board of directors were flown to the bedsides of cancerous children, as a part of the Life government's "Instant Karma" program. 

“Life will protect itself through the eagle-eyed enforcement of evolution,” was the terse comment by the government.

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Our strategy for Grand Central

One way that a community can develop is by the resistance around it. I feel that way about Grand Central Station. Our police violence protests are becoming fascinating to us because the traditional ones are banned.

Grand Central Terminal is a public space, with 750,000 to a million people passing through it, and because of this it is considered at risk for terrorist bombs. It is heavily policed. We can have National Guard, Homeland Security, the various departments of the NYPD, and the New York State Troopers, with their Dudley-do-right funny hats with the brims - surrounding us as we recite the names of the police-killed citizenry.

Here, key police violence gatherings have taken place since the Eric Garner non-indictment. Often the protests have taken the form of die-ins, a crowd sprawled across the floor, silent, beneath the sky-green ceiling a hundred feet up, with constellations and the winged horses and fish and warriors of the zodiac. The die-ins are very moving, and community is made in this fall on the floor. Stories are told, laughter releases, people come back to life and go get coffee. Across the country, bridges and highways and many public buildings are host to the simulated mass death and communities are growing.

Now the die-ins are banned. The police have invented charges of violence against the protesters in Grand Central, and this involved our Church of Stop Shopping. They have banned putting placards on the floor with the names of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, Oscar Grant, Aiyana Jones, Vonderitt Meyers… They have banned falling to the ground and pretending to die, honoring those dead.

We honor them every day. Right now this is the key to all politics, any issue. Black Lives Matter. We sorrow with the families. We ponder the last seconds they lived. We are with them as they are ambushed on the sidewalk, as they are shot as they talk to girlfriends on the phone, as walk through the dark hallway, as they sleep on couches, as they wait for the subway. The last moments are with us and we look to our living friends to conjure with us performances that will keep these lost lives in our memory. 

We’ve been singing. We like to go in there, surrounded by the law, and talk as if we have a right to. We make films, giving testimonials to the camera about police violence, pretending that we don’t know that they are nearby uncomfortable with us, drawn to us and resisting us, trying to remember their instructions, confused by our ownership of this place. Oh and we have only begun…

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Dear Friends

10926196_10152498221660974_8550044109746119151_n.jpgI'm feeling a bit better today. Why this "attacks the police" charge is more emotional for me than the "terror" and "menace" charges of a year and a half ago - I don't know why! The ways of the soul are mysterious. Maybe the terror stuff was so comical on its face - even with the year in jail that went with it - I didn't have to fear that friends would suspect me of threatening anyone. (I know I can seem unstable even to my friends, even to my wife.) This time the hyperbole is all in the press, not in the courts, and my supposed actions are a pretext for toughening the policing of our protest. 

I don't know what I could have done differently to avoid being used this way. I was handcuffed in mid-speech. They noticed on the social forums that there was a gap in the videotape, because everyone followed the cops picking up the placards with the victims names from the floor - and that WAS the important thing to see. But in taking the video off me, the police are free to say what they will about my activity in about 2 seconds of missing footage. So I feel outsmarted, and used by the police to begin criminalizing our movement, which was the strategy against Occupy Wall Street. Homeland Security officials were in Grand Central on Monday, watching our drama unfold. I see their extralegal hand in this. 

You see? I started writing to you this morning talking about how I feel, but then I become what I feel: hurt and betrayed. The fact is, I'm better as a clown out there on the sidewalk and this power-gaming is foreign to me. I know one thing: I have a skill for not shouting or shoving when police close in. I'm confident that when we do find that videotape, probably from the police or Grand Central surveillance cameras (we have video of them taping) it will be obvious to you and me, to a jury, to a judge and to the public - that I did not "attack" or "get physical with" or "assault" an officer. I notice, although they took me to the Tombs for a day, that they haven't charged me with anything. What does that mean? They looked at their tapes and found what I know is there. I had my nonviolence discipline in full operation, I was fully aware and was only engaged in preaching until I was cuffed. There was a startling football team-like flood of cops walking on the names, but all I did was preach Peace.

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Stand With Us

10900124_10152494628610974_1130162800120822477_o-1.jpgThe police spokespersons are calling us violent in the New York press. The police say that I "attacked" them and the New York Post etc are growing the scandalous rhetoric, "attack" and "assault" being bandied about. Most tragically, they are exclaiming in public that they must clamp down on the uprising against police violence after Michael Brown and Eric Garner - because we are now "attacking the police."

Meanwhile, they don't seem to mind that their position is contradictory. They say scary things to reporters but are unwilling or unable to charge me with anything. In court they offered the standard no-charge of "Adjournment with Contemplation of Dismissal." An ACD is a hardly a charge. 

None of their dozens of officers will risk perjury by taking the stand. Could that be because nothing happened? I am trained in nonviolence. I would never grab, shove, push an officer. I would never express anything that could be misconstrued as a challenge. A veteran of protests from Vienna to Hawaii to Helsinki to Nairobi - I have never been charged with violence against police. In fact, I was handcuffed on Tuesday in mid-speech. The only question here is the 1st Amendment. The rest is their invention.

Here is the most offensive piece:

We appeal for witnesses and videotapes of the arrest to contact us. and 646 299 3019. In particular there is no video that captures the entire five or six seconds of the arrest period. We cannot be confidant that the MTA police will be forthcoming with surveillance camera from Grand Central - but of course are requesting the tapes. 

They have success criminalizing protest, calling the "Critical Mass" bicyclists violent, and then the same thing with Occupy Wall Street. Homeland Security was there in Grand Central and they are believed to have advised city police on the harassment of OWS. We will try to stand up to them. The protest against police violence cannot be called violent by police.

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Looking Back After The Tombs

10906438_10152494097345974_305577361665409012_n.jpgWhen a great city struggles for its soul, then strange things happen. Sept. 11th, 2001 was surreal. Watching the buildings fall. It is fitting that the effort by citizens to regain our balance, after five militaristic Republican mayoral terms - will be strange, too. 

This is how strange. I shouted "Black Lives Matter" a few times in Grand Central Station and police rushed at me like I was a fiend. Before us were the names of the unarmed police-killed citizens, on placards on the floor. Later in the downstairs jail, I asked the police why the upset about a little protest. And why disrespect the dead. A thoughtful sergeant posed the question, "Where will it all end? You can't shut down the Grand Central the way you shut down the bridges and highways." There's the problem. They don't see the defense of my right to speak as their work. They won't admit that they will consider the lost lives and their families. 

No - they consider me a leader of an opposing cult. They are territorial. They think of the Brooklyn Bridge as a famous symbol that they lost to a rival group, with an international audience watching. They see Grand Central that way. But, of course, we are not a rival religious group. We pay their salary. The police are bound to protect and serve us, and to enforce the laws of the land. as set forth in the United States Constitution. After 20 years of these Republican mayors, New York police never talk of the 1st Amendment as something that is tangible to them.

The police in our city have a notion of their 40,000 officer community that is cult-like, and they are quite unconscious about it. They are grandiose, afraid, disconnected, and easily led by demagogues. And they carry loaded guns. And yet, last night in The Tombs, I was engrossed with their conversations about the insensitivities of a liberal mayor, about their replays of the murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. They are surprisingly caring when they don't think anyone is listening. 

Strange: The NYPD work slowdown leaves the local jail almost empty. They have pulled back on their arrests by up to 94%. So I was sitting for the first time alone in my cell, instead of 40 men to a cell, usually so crowded that we use each others' shins for pillows. However, in the midst of their arrest slow-down - they find the time and resources to arrest me and a few prisoners charged with felonies. 

Ironically, The Tombs are usually packed with poor people of color who are pulled in by the harassment laws, like open bottles on the stoop, or the repository of subjective police abuse: "Disorderly Conduct." That's one my charges, too.

The cops can be reached and changed. That must happen. It will come from black lives and white lives being unafraid to talk to them in public space. That was always how it was. We have to bravely go to them and change them - and that is a strange transfer, like wrestling with very old culture. Sojourner Truth did it, and Lucy Parsons, and Emma Goldman. They were abused by cops but they teach us how to change them. 

When I was sitting in that empty cell for all that time, freezing on that bench, it was my jailer I had to think about. I would shout for some water. Most of the night my jailer was a black man who was as funny as Chris Rock. I would preach back at him and we both laughed a lot. But the conversation that we had that might have changed both us always started with our children.

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