Arrested and facing a year in gaol for singing in a bank

Reverend Billy Talen and the music director of the Stop Shopping Choir, Nehemiah Luckett, were arrested minutes later on a subway platform. The two were charged with riot in the second degree, menacing in the third degree, unlawful assembly, and two counts of disorderly conduct.

Rev Billy in JPMorgan Chase

Rev Billy in JPMorgan Chase

On a Thursday afternoon last month, a dozen singing activists from the Church of Stop Shopping in NYC performed in the role of extinct Golden Toads in a “wealth management bank” of JPMorgan Chase at 56th and 6th in Manhattan. The dancing, singing toads offered bank workers and customers information sheets about the impact of Chase investments on the environment.

Reverend Billy Talen and the music director of the Stop Shopping Choir, Nehemiah Luckett, were arrested minutes later on a subway platform. The two were charged with riot in the second degree, menacing in the third degree, unlawful assembly, and two counts of disorderly conduct. The DA’s office requested one year in prison for “this criminal stunt.” But Atty. Wylie Stecklow, defending the two activists, insisted that the “15 minutes of performance art about the Earth’s crisis” was well within “expressive political activity” protected by the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution. The lawyers went back and forth: “Art!” “Crime!” “Art!” “Crime!” “Art!”

The Church of Stop Shopping, — a activist collective of musicians and other artists uses the research from BankTrack.Org of the Netherlands and the World Development Movement based in London to show that Chase Bank is a top financier of extractive fossil projects, responsible for more CO2 emissions release than any other institution, with the possible exception of the Chinese Communist Party. The church believes that we must reach out to the workers within the fossil fuel cartel if change is to come.

The Stop Shopping Choir, with (hopefully) Reverend Billy preaching and Nehemiah at the piano — opens a series of performances Nov. 24 through Dec 22 at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater in New York.

Please show support for the Rev and Nehemiah by signing this petition, which will be presented to the court on 9 December 2013.

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