Wylie Stecklow, Legal Counsel for William Talen, 212-566-8000 x3, email@example.com
William Talen, AKA Reverend Billy, Files Lawsuit Against Metropolitan Transit Authority for Violation of Constitutional Rights, False Arrest and Defamation
New York, New York -- Today, activist-performer William Talen filed a lawsuit against Metropolitan Transit Authority in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York. He seeks damages related to thirteen claims including violation of his First Amendment, Fourth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights, false arrest and defamation.
In the midst of a 24-hour vigil honoring 170 unarmed civilians killed by police, Talen was arrested by Metropolitan Transportation Authority police while delivering a Black Lives Matter sermon in Grand Central Terminal on January 6, 2015. Talen was charged with disorderly conduct and obstruction of governmental administration.
Talen spent the night in The Tombs, the New York City correctional facility at 100 Centre Street. The Tombs were surreally empty, as this was at the time of the police work stoppage. The police had turned their back on Mayor de Blasio at the funeral of Officer Wenjian Liu only 24 hours before Talen’s arrest.
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 these statements to be false as Talen did not "get physical" with police officers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPRa8aRSo20. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office dropped all charges related to this arrest.
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, especially so close in time to the tragic deaths of two officers just a week earlier, the MTA branded him as a target and a threat to police, jeopardizing his safety and harming his reputation.”
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 on tour with Neil Young in 2015, in JP Morgan Chase bank lobbies, Wal-marts and at Monsanto’s corporate properties. Talen and the Stop Shopping Choir are artists in residence at the Public Theater in New York. Talen and Savitri D live together with their daughter in Brooklyn, with many cops as neighbors.
For more info, visit www.revbilly.com.
We feel the energy in "Black Lives Matter" and "We Are All The 99%" and "I Can't Breathe".
The fossil fuel divestment movement doesn't have that great rallying cry. "Leave It In The Ground" sounds like place-holder for the shout that will stop the oil drill. Sitting in the white noise of downtown Manhattan, in the jarring construction and screaming cop cars - I ask myself why the Earth movement lacks its powerful spoken words that we all use.
Re-purposing the word "Fracking" in "Frack-Off" and "No Fracking Way" and all those pungent near-profanities, does carry that punch because we shouted them we watched grandmothers handcuff themselves to excavator equipment. Is it the physical activity during the actual use of the word that raises its decibel level? Yes. Words come from bodies and what bodies do to make words gives the phrases their mouth-to-hear magic. Words that only circle around safely inside the media don't make change.
The resistance to fracking and its pipelines was less effective when it was led by middle class institutions that were uncomfortable with the risk of arrest. But think of Gil Scott-Heron. We can hear Nina Simone, Harvey Milk, Malcolm X --- their voices ring out. They committed physically and spiritually and we listen to them. And we are aware as we listen to them that they were always at risk.
We repeat their hot words to our fellow activists, and together we shout the words in rhythm as we do what always needs to be done to make change: trespass, shout, refuse and affirm and dare.
File this under "Activism that we can all do!" Public space no longer exists, being corporatized and over-policed. Activism is banned by fake freedom. Seeing as how we have never needed dramatic activism more than at this very moment in history, with the Earth's crisis... how do we proceed? The problem - I mean the problem FOR THEM - the troulbe with running a mono-culture, is that a little real freedom, in this case a real public emotion, brings the whole thing down. The executives and uniforms stand there helplessly as we hold forth in the lobby of the Tate Modern Museum in the UK, this one is in Liverpool. If the security people were confused, our museum-goers were not, as we passed out our damning information. The museum needs to understand that it will be boycotted, first morally, then literally. The Tate accepts money from British Petroleum (BP) and so it legitimizes a culture that should be actively demonized. Tate is doing what MOMA did for years in New York with its acceptance of Marlboro money. Its enough to make you cry.
Photo credits: Lena Nightstar Talen
I found this old picture. There was a island wide loss of power that night, ten years ago in NY. Savitri and I were dining on spaghetti in the Wooster St. apt of Spalding Gray, Kathy Russo and their sons Forest and Theo. We got out the candles and lit ourselves and the table. Spalding was having a rough night, always second guessing himself. hesitating, regretting the smallest things with bitterness. Kathy was encouraging him but also clearly had a long-game of patience. The boys were ages - 6 and 10 - something in that range, and they were sustaining a cheerfulness more easily, but already Forest, the older boy, was sneaking glances at Dad. Savi and I insisted on the role of happy guests, but some of our social talk was left as well-intentioned quips hanging in the air.
I always loved Spalding and sought his approval as an older brother with such an original artistic place in the world. At a critical point in my own hesitation about what to do with my work, he scolded me about my habitual producing of other artists, including him. "Stop producing and do that preacher character. Go to Times Square and preach on the street and don't stop. Do it all day."
We walked from the apt through the dark streets, Theo was falling asleep. We walked to Union Square. There was a festive feeling, lots of laugher. We arrived at the old speaker's corner of our town and a crowd was waiting together in the darkness. Perhaps I had a feeling of foreboding about Spalding, and then there was a eery laughing ancient quality to things on the plaza under the trees. I had my vestment and collar in my satchel and put it on and began to preach. I was lit up by the flashlights of folks sitting there. Now discovering this picture ten years later, I am moved by it, the grotesque glory of it. Preaching against the darkness for Spalding.
We ask our friends to share addresses near where they live of that purveyor of toxicity, Monsanto. Like their molecular-scale poison darts, Monsanto is sometimes hard to find. We offer here the four addresses where the choir and I have held forth in the last year.
1) The laboratory in our current video is at 37437 State Highway 16, in Woodland, Cali - Yolo Cty, near Davis, California. To be a part of a protest there contact Kim Sloan at the Anti-Monsanto Project (AMP).
2) World headquarters of Monsanto is 800 N Lindbergh Blvd, Creve Coeur, MO 63141. When we staged our organic Thanksgiving dinner in the snow at their front door, we were helped by many special local activists. Organic Consumer Association (OCA) has the contact info for Big Chem resisters in every city and town.
3) "640 Labs", 2 N LaSalle St, Chicago, IL. Located downtown near Federal Plaza, this is one of the research firms Monsanto gobbled up, either to expand their operations or just to neutralize a competitor with profitable secrets. We performed an exorcism with this year's March Against Monsanto.
4) When we're in Cambridge MA singing to scientists in Harvard's Micro-robotics Laboratory, the DARPA-helped frankensteins trying to replace the honey bee with a Robobee, we always stop at the nearby Monsanto office, 245 First St #2, Cambridge, MA 02142
It has a convenient lobby area which carries echoes from bullhorns up to the rattling windows.
Watch out for the crop-dusters!
Commissioner Mitchell Silver
Department of Parks, NY
The Arsenal, Central Park
830 5th Avenue
New York, New York 10065
On Wednesday July 15, The Church of Stop Shopping entered the area where the glyphosate-spraying trucks are parked in Prospect Park to sing “Monsanto is the Devil”. (See pictures attached.) We have in recent months talked with workers while they sprayed Monsanto’s “RoundUp” herbicide within the borders of Prospect Park.
You are an important visionary. I’m sure that you are aware of the studies that indicate the danger of glyphosates, and that whole countries are now banning the stuff. And it’s not lost on you that illness and death from Monsanto’s herbicide is as prosecutable as the illness and death from tobacco and asbestos.
On the lighter side: You now face the exorcisms of Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir. Oh no! You’ve got religious zealots on your tail!
Some of us live near Prospect Park and we’re not sure about the safety for our children. That’s a very sad thing for those of us who live in this part of Brooklyn for the greenery of this great park. What are parents supposed to do? Glyphosates are so toxic that medical authorities no longer offer a safe minimum. You shouldn’t be spraying ANY of that stuff.
We are considering a range of activity in response to the spraying. We are looking into citizens arrests-while-singing. We are apt to sing to a playground full of kids and parents and hand out a reader-friendly version of the World Health Organization’s report on glyphosates, carcinogenicity.
We hope that you do the right thing. We will invite you to our next concert in the park. Mitchell Silver and park officials…save your souls! Monsanto is the Devil!
Reverend Billy Talen
The Church of Stop Shopping
PO Box 1556
Canal Street Station
New York, New York 10013
THE SCIENTIFIC STUDIES not influenced by chemical companies have found Glyphosates (activie ingredient in Monsanto’s “RoundUp) to be dangerous, causing Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and other cancers, birth defects, and celiac disease, allergies, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome. The pesticide and its inert chemicals in RoundUp are persistent in body tissue, blood and breast milk in humans.
I’m sure you know that there have been hundreds of studies researching the dangers of RoundUp, but the lawyers on our board insisted that we include a healthy sampling in this letter.
A recent sampling in the Los Angeles area found glyphosate levels in breast milk are higher than the minimum levels for the herbicide required in drinking water.
Beyond Pesticides, No Spray Coalition, Organic Consumers Association and The Church of Stop Shopping have initiated bans on use of the glyphosates around city parks. New York City Councilpersons Ben Kallos and Helen Rosenthal advocate limits on the toxins’ use and have introduced a bill to ban some pesticides and herbicides.
We're gathering energy for the last week of our Indiegogo fundraising campaign, thanks to you and to this community. If you can donate $10, we will send you our two new limited edition stickers. Earthalujah!http://igg.me/at/banmonsanto/x/939081
I was walking uphill with Lena. We were on our street, nearly home, and the bright evening light to the west was making the windy trees silhouettes in motion. It was that coolish-warm evening wind, my favorite. Lena suddenly saw Sam the neighborhood cat standing motionless in front of our house. Sam! Her little soft hand slipped from mine and she was running uphill through the windy trees toward the shapes of bright light and Sam started turning toward her in that cat way, ready to escape. Lena was laughing, knowing Dad was watching and the cat was escaping and the trees made those soft whistling sounds. I was suddenly completely relieved of my worry about the future which is my lot. I've been thinking about the trucks that spray glyphosates all day in the park nearby, but we're alive now. I'm grateful that the Earth still would give us this moment. I'm feeling such contented happiness watching her running toward our home.
FUNDAMENTALIST CHRISTIANS BELIEVE 2ND COMING WILL SAVE THEM FROM CLIMATE CHANGE. The inspiring but tragic Jesus of Nazareth, killed by the Romans at the age of 32, certainly won't be there to deliver us from the floods and fires of climate change, which is, in fact, the form that the Apocalypse is taking. How ironic: Fundamentalist Christians are the also-rans here at the End Times. And they thought they invented the genre!!
Only the Earth offers life that transcends death. Earth makes life that includes death within it. That is the gift. It is eternal life as it was always meant to be: many lives dying and giving birth, intertwining and growing the future. Individuals never had the inside track on eternity, but communities of life can live for a long time, if they live in balance with the communities of life around them. It isn't too late to live that way, is it?
THE BRAVE BRIDGE DANGLERS OF PORTLAND, and the kayakers up the coast and the whole movement in the Northwest against arctic drilling, is such indispensable work. We are all so grateful. We badly need dramatic action, big stark brave images.
It seems that we have to re-learn courage. We are straining toward our Pettis Bridge and Stonewall Tavern and we aren't there yet. We don't have a socialmovement on the scale that would make a difference to the Earth. We are like John the Baptist screaming in the stream. Consumerism makes the kind of motion that isn't moving at all. What appears to be new is not a change in values, just a new product. The heavy inertia of the "old normal" keeps pushing back against human justice and earth justice.
Here in Brooklyn the glyphosate trucks are spraying in the public park. I just bicycled over the parking lot and there they are. Monsanto's toxins are sprayed within a few feet of playgrounds and all manner of humanity. In the church we're discussing - sending pictures of ourselves from last July 15th, exorcising the trucks, walking unauthorized inside the cyclone fence, holding hands and singing. Let the Commissioner of Parks know about our trespassing. We are making new culture, new songs and prayers, human expression that the surrounding trees are flowing through... That's going on, Mr. Commish, and will continue until you stop the toxins.
Each of us has some skill: juggling, welding, skateboarding... whatever we have to offer, we must look for how we can support the Earth with what we do. The big battles need to be mixed with many local ones. We need to do what we can do. --rev