The founder of Ben & Jerry’s on Monday repossessed a projector-equipped “Batmobile” used to spread the Occupy Wall Street message after months of squabbling with activists about how the vehicle would be used.
Ben Cohen had agreed in January to donate up to $65,000 to develop and operate vehicles that would project protest messages on the side of buildings. The plan included hiring activist Mark Read to operate the van for $250 a day.
But Cohen later asked for the van to be returned after he became concerned that the project was being diverted from the Occupy Wall Street message to causes like WikiLeaks and the Russian band Pussy Riot.
“He didn’t want to have to bother with the messy part of being in a democracy,” Read told DNAinfo.com. “He’s a 1 percenter, telling the 99 percent, ‘I’m your boss.’”
The activists had agreed to operate the vehicle for six hours each night for up to six nights a week by April 1. Read said volunteers were paid $1,000 a week for about 60 hours of labor.
But it was clear that Cohen was not happy with their performance and a “custody battle” over the van resulted in activists agreeing to use the vehicle throughout the summer and then return it to the Ben & Jerry’s founder on October 1.
“After we put in all those hours and put ourselves at risk as activists, we had [Cohen], who had not been in the van, come in and critique us,” Read complained. “To a person, I think we all feel kind of betrayed and disappointed.”
A Kickstarter campaign launched by the activists in late August collected $24,000 to build “The Illuminator 2.0,” a new van that they hope will replace Cohen’s “Batmobile.”
Watch this video from Illustrious Luminarians of NYC.