In his own unique style of anti-branding, performance artist Bill Talen and his troupe of ‘Golden Toads’ staged a demo at J P Morgan Chase bank’s Manhattan branch to highlight its funding of CO2 emissions.
But performing as the ‘Reverend Billy’ – who leads the Church of Stop Shopping – he now faces, along with his singing troupe, up to a year in prison for stating facts evident elsewhere.
The Reverend’s performances are an extension of his long-standing message that mindless consumerism is not only emotionally and psychologically harmful to us as individuals and families, as well as wider society, but will ultimately destroy the planet that sustains our lives.
Though he has staged similar protests at other banks over the last few years, J P Morgan is the perfect target. Two years ago, for instance, Think Progress published a report on how J P Morgan has led the banking sector in pumping billions of dollars into carbon-intensive coal mining and coal-fired electricity generation.
Behind J P Morgan are the usual banking suspects. In order, the following six biggest offenders were identified as Citi, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Barclays, Deutche Bank and the Royal Bank of Scotland.
The facts contradict claims made by many across the sector, with the help of their ranks of corporate social responsibility managers, that they are committed to fighting global warming.
The Rev Billy’s performance in J P Morgan branch’s private client wealth management offices obviously came as a surprise to the bemused staff. The troupe burst into song and handed out leaflets to customers and staff, before the Reverend gave a short sermon on how the bank’s investments supported carbon-intensive industries.
His sermon went as follows:
We are in the midst of a mass extinction at this time. I ask you to think of your own children. I am the father of a three year old and I’m worried about the kind of world that my daughter will inherit. Please protect life, protect the Earth. Take your money out of J P Morgan Chase or work inside the bank to change the values system of this bank. It is the largest bank in the United States by assets, but it is also the [world’s top bank in terms of financing industrial CO2 emissions].
Who caused Hurricane Sandy? Chase bank did, if anybody did. Rise up against the corporations that are poisoning the atmosphere. It’s up to you and to me. Only we can do it.
Somebody give me a “Change-a-lujah”! Somebody give me a “Life-a-lujah”! Somebody give me a “Life-a-lujah”!
But according to Forbes, the stunt has landed the Reverend and his band of toads criminal charges. Reports Forbes: “This past Monday, they were charged with, among other things, riot in the second degree and menacing in the third degree, both of which, while misdemeanours, carry penalties of up to one year in prison. Their trial will start December 9th. 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.”
The Occupy Wall Street movement is supporting a campaign to ‘Free Billy’.