Rev. Billy Files Lawsuit Against MTA


Marnie Glickman, Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir,

Wylie Stecklow, Legal Counsel for William Talen, 212-566-8000 x3,

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.  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. 

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