Reverend Billy Talen, founder of the Church of Stop Shopping, faces up to a year in jail over a protest at a Manhattan branch of JPMorgan Chase Bank, Metro reported.
Talen and Nehemiah Luckett, his troupe’s musical director, were arrested in October and charged with second-degree riot, third-degree menacing, two counts of disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly after their group performed a 15-minute sermon at the bank’s offices for private client wealth management are located, with choir members dressed as Central American Golden Toads, a species rendered extinct as a result of global climate change. Talen’s group performed the same protest at another JPMorgan branch in June.
Talen and Luckett were arrested at a subway platform after the demonstration. Forbes reported that the District Attorney’s office referred to their protest as a “criminal stunt.”
However, the duo’s attorney, Wylie Stecklow, was quoted as saying in a Change.org petition supporting them that the sermon constituted “expressive political activity” and was protected by the First Amendment. Their trial is scheduled to begin on Dec. 9.
Talen told environmental news site Grist that he has been arrested at least 75 times since he began his anti-consumerist demonstrations in 1999.
“Our researchers have it that JP Morgan Chase is one of the top financiers of climate change disruption in the world, and we’re handing out that information and that is a very sensitive thing,” Talen was quoted as saying. “I think that we’re in dicey territory here because JP Morgan Chase is basically the government of New York.”
[Image via Reverend Billy Talen Facebook page]