by Linda Schade
(New York) Best known as the Reverend Billy, actor and activist William Talen made international headlines last Monday (11/18/13) with eight members of the Golden Toads Earthalujah Choir as he held a protest sermon in the lobby of a Manhattan branch of Morgan Chase. Preaching about the bank’s role as the largest backer globally of the CO2 emissions that cause global warming, Rev. Billy made an emotional plea to bank staff and customers ‘We are in the midst of a mass extinction. I ask you to think about your own children. I am worried about the kind of world my own three-year daughter old will inherit. Please protect life.”
Dressed as Golden Toads which recently went extinct due to climate change, the choir sang back up. Referencing the bank’s investments in coal-fired power plants, oil pipelines, fracking, tar sands and mountain-top removal, Reverend Billy urged accountholders: “Who caused Hurricane Sandy? JP Morgan Chase, if anybody! Take your money out!’ Arrested 75 times for his colorful anti-consumerist activism, Reverend Billy and one choir member were taken into custody after the 15-minute protest as they were waiting for the subway.
Charged with riot in the second degree and menacing in the third degree, both misdemeanors carry penalties of up to one year in prison; there were also charges of unlawful assembly and trespass. Rev. Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping organized the ‘expressive politics’ event upon news reports last week that JP Morgan Chase was ordered to pay the largest fine in U.S. history of $13 billion after admitting they lied to the public about their toxic mortgage products.
Department of Justice head Eric Holder, who personally negotiated the settlement with JP Morgan Chase noted that the world’s largest bank played a significant role in causing the global financial crisis of 2007. “Without a doubt, the conduct uncovered in this investigation helped sow the seeds of the mortgage meltdown,” said Holder. The Reverend’s trial will begin on December 9th. Forbes Magazine’s writer Monte Burke is on the mark in his article on the incident: ‘The question to be answered: Was this “a criminal stunt,” as the assistant district attorney described it? Or was it merely an expression protected by the First Amendment? Years of precedent would suggest it is the latter.”