MEDIA ADVISORY Prosecutors demand 1 year in prison and $30k bail for toad costumed bank protesters. The 15 minute performance in the Chase Bank has earned criminal charges of "Riot"
“Menacing” and "Unlawful Assembly."
William Talen ("Reverend Billy") and Nehemiah Lucket, music director of the Church of Stop Shopping, with downtown Civil Rights lawyer Wylie Stecklow of Stecklow, Cohen and Thompson, were startled to hear the Assistant DA ask Judge Felicia Mennin for a full year in prison for Mr. Talen's role as the comic preacher who lead extinct animals into the JPMorgan Chase Bank at 56th and 6th Ave in Manhattan on Thursday September 12th. The "performance" was by the Stop Shopping Choir and the progressive televangelist Reverend Billy. Protesting the bank's role in financing CO2 emitting industries, the singers inhabit the character of Golden Toads, a small amphibian forced into extinction by extreme climate change in Central America in the late 80's. The choir sang throughout the 15 minute surprise performance their song "We Surround You" - a song dedicated to the threatened animals in the climate change era. Reverend Billy preached a short sermon based on research that has show Chase Bank to be the world's top disrupter of the atmosphere by its investments in fossil fuel industrial projects. After the performance piece, the choir and Rev Billy left the bank and entered the subway. Rev. Billy and Mr. Luckett were apprehended by police on the F Train platform. At the Midtown Community Court appearance before Judge Mennin, the Assistant DA refused the insistence by the plaintiffs that bank workers on the scene were advised that "This was expressive politics and will be concluded shortly." The ADA called the performance "A criminal stunt" and further submitted to the court that Mr. Talen has been arrested in California, Washington DC and New Hampshire. Lawyer Wylie Stecklow defended the action as "Expressive speech activity protected by the 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution" and pointed
out that similarly, at Rev. Billy’s very last Bank arrest, two years earlier, the
NYPD also overcharged the conduct as misdemeanors due to NYPD policy (and NY Criminal Procedure Law 140.10) that does not allow for non-criminal arrests that occur outside the presence of the NYPD. This prior arrest occurred after a protest in the UBS bank, at 58th and 5th Ave, when Rev. Billy and the Stop Shopping singers were asking UBS to reconsider ties to mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia. After a bench trial, Judge James Burke found Talen innocent on all charges, throwing out charges of trespassing and resisting arrest.