May 13, 2011
Things I Think After Jail: Reflections on Koch Brothers Drive-In at Lincoln Center
On Wednesday night 500 people marched on Lincoln Center in a most unusual way. The protest – this commons-retaking – filled the plaza with a from-everywhere kind of diverse crowd. They turned the imagery the great buildings into a comic critique of Charles and David Koch. The oil moguls who gave Lincoln Center $100 million are the bucks behind the Tea Party, climate change denial, homophobia – just the beginning of a long list of Evil-doing.
The “Guerrilla Drive-In” at Lincoln Center was an experiment that many of the activists of New York attended – as if this cliff-hanger protest might reveal the future (which, yes, it has). Brave New Foundation, Agit-Pop, The Other 98%, Yes Lab, Critical Mass, the Rude Mechanical Orchestra and our own Church of Earthalujah worked in concert.
I enjoyed a role like that of a band-leader, motioning the congregation toward the west wall of the New York State Theater Building, preaching there a while from the top of a planter. Meanwhile guerrilla projectionists focused giant and savagely funny images of the Koch brothers on the white edifices.
The whole thing was over in a little more than an hour. As we were walking toward our car with our troupe’s director and my partner Savi, who carried our 13 month old Lena, we noticed three muscle-men running toward us through the darkness of the Avenue. SWAT-team-like, they pushed around a while shouting in my face, cuffed me and pushed me into a black car. I vanished into the system for 24 hours in this continuing fetish the NYPD has for jailing the “Billy preacher guy.”
While sleeping on the floor in the underground gulag of the apple, with its Hispanic and African-American population of prisoners, I was worried that Lena had seen something violent – her daddy taken away in that thuggish way. I was assured after I got out yesterday afternoon that Lena was asleep in her mother’s baby-sling at the time – as the choir shouted at the cops and took their pictures.
This is the city’s campaign against democracy in parks or streets, in place since 9/11. The guy who wears gospel whites and can shout trips an automatic policy response in the security codes. I was charged with trespassing – but there were 500 of us! But Osama’s gone now and 9/11 is approaching its ten year anniversary. Why don’t we bring back democracy in the city? The history of New York – labor rights in a most basic way, like the 8 hour day - come from our rich tradition of out-door protests, chants, music, big signs. Despite the technology of the “Guerrilla Drive-in,” we’re working inside a long tradition here. And yet, the police and press deploy their harassment and suppression so habitually now. It’s the old normal.
We are fighting for all of our lives. We are putting ourselves at risk for Life on Earth. Our children deserve life. When I see a cop or a press persons on the sidewalk and talk one-one – then we usually agree. But as institutions, the big information and security systems act like corporations, doing things as a group that the individuals would never do.
Right now - you silence the message with the messengers. No-one is more responsible for climate change than Charles and David Koch. And yet their names are plastered all over our most prestigious buildings. Let’s break from our old misguided ideas of “security.” Earthalujah!
Watch a video about the action from Brave New Foundation: http://youtu.be/6AfPGcpajtg
Video of Rev. Billy's arrest: http://vimeo.com/23632588
Join us this Sunday at our Billionaires Costume Ball: http://bit.ly/billionsball