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Mon Feb 23, 2015 at 11:18 AM PST

Activism With or Without God

by Reverend Billy

Barack Obama’s mention of the slaughters of the Christian Crusades was the opening of a can of worms that turned into snakes. The victims of the knights in shining armor were Jews and Muslims, but that was that time. The followers of the three desert deities, Jehovah, the Prophet and Jesus — have battled back and forth through history. But then each religion has devout peace activists, too. Zealots, zealots everywhere.

In Occupy Wall Street and in the Black Lives Matter as well, there was a steady presence of ministers and rabbis — and I remember a Lakota wisdom leader at Zuccotti Park — even though clearly most of the movement-makers are secular. But we welcomed the aura of Dr.King and the Dalai Lama and Chief Joseph and Gandhi and Bishop Tutu and the movements that they represent. They both comforted and emboldened us, as we marched off to lock arms inthe doorway of Goldman Sachs or die dramatically across the floor of GrandCentral Station.

The dismissal of religion by Marxists is discredited by present day radicals, but so are belief systems with patriarchal gods. And yet, religion never leaves. Leaders of change sometimes seem like saints, if theyare more humble in demeanor, like Joan Baez or Aung San Suu Kyi, or Yeb Sano,the Filipino climate diplomat. If they are brassier, like Vandana Shiva, or Jose Bove or Edward Snowden, then they are called messianic.

I’m in the business of manipulating the memes of rightwing apocalyptic Christianity, with the Stop Shopping Choir. We study the presence of intolerant religion within Consumerism and Militarism; in banks that finance C02 emitting industries, like Chase andHSBC and UBS, and manufacturers of toxins like Monsanto and Bayer. We believe that the marketing departments of these industries are the new fundamentalist churches, with crusaders in the form of sexualized automobiles and product placement on celebrities’ bodies.

Of course we rarely get anywhere near a financial or fossil fuel policy-maker. They surround us with police, who are kept in a state of angry fear. And time and time again our protests are like a clash of fundamentalist religions, the activism of two churches claiming the same God. In the conflict with banksand police, things are always very muscular, lots of finger-pointing, refusals,threats, stand-offs. We’re dealing with mutual, simultaneous damnation. You are my infidel.

I was recently hand-cuffed while speaking in New York’s Grand Central Station with the group “We Will Not Be Silent.” Surrounded by placards featuring the names of those killed by deadly police force, and wearing my usual white polyester and priests collar, I was cuffed in mid-sentence. The metal went into the verb. So much for the 1st Amendment. The next day the policetold the Murdoch papers that I attacked a cop.

Of course, I felt out-maneuvered by the flamboyant right wingers. But did I misguess the event? Did my analysis of power against power, protesters against institutions — pre-empt any connection with the possibly sympathetic people within Grand Central Station? Anything internal in those folks, anything deeper than theiranger, was unrevealed in the activist event. The cops feel like 9/11 is still happening. And I’m taking their Christian preacher and shouting about their blunders. We all get angry together.

I find myself desperately wanting to talk to the employees of Grand Central Station about what happened. But these big structures, the courts, the press — all of that gets in the way. A quiet human conversation is no longer possible. A good pastor can engage in loving conversation in the middle of horror, like Bishop Tutu looking the apartheid leaders in the eye. Could I have somehow done that? I did return after I got out of jail to try to talk to the cop who man-handled me, but he wouldn’t shake my hand.

Birth, and life, and death — no one knows what life is. Life is unexplained. Science doesn’t know and religion doesn’t either. Fundamentalists rush in with hard answers, to assuage our fear of death. Usually, the doctrine is encased in bigotry. Fundamentalist holy men arrange for us to fear the Other. And yet, again, religion cuts both ways. A “person of the cloth” carries the burden of these deeper questions, and so they can have the effect of slowing down violence. I remember clerics inserting themselves between the front lines in the Balkans.

More of our activism needs a spiritual basis, and that doesn’t only mean the absence of mindless confrontation. Spirit is laughter, shape-shifting and music. We felt the impact of Erica Warner dying-in on the Staten Island sidewalk where her father was murdered, a mysterious and beautiful act. And we remember Wangari Maathi planting trees in the Nairobi park, in the face of the brutal dictator, and Chelsea Manning opening the door of secrets.

I should go back to Grand Central Station and talk to those people. At least I should be able to talk to mothers, because they have the endless questions of children ringing inside them, even if those moms are cops. That is the antidote to fundamentalism. All those questions. If I talked with a hundred mothers, wouldn’t that be a better kind of activism than shouting in the echoey station and getting hauled off? Here’s the question I want to ask: “How do we end this violence?”


The Long Black Friday made sense a week ago in Ferguson, not just to young people but, surprisingly, to an older coalition of justice workers and Christians ministers who called for the cessation of shopping throughout the long Thanksgiving weekend.  This is scandalous to the corporations. “Black Friday” is this weekend that establishes the retail profits for the year, as in, the company “Goes into the black.”  But politically this is a savvy and long overdue move.  The proposal confronts a decades-long drift toward a trading in of shopping for freedom.

Now we see die-ins in Macy’s in New York after the Eric Garner grand jury decision. Disruptions of the hypnotized state of holiday browsing continue in Walmarts and Targets throughout the country. These decisions to concentrate on big retail happen instinctively.  They are crowd-sourced.  People know that the privatizing of our commons is a key to what has gone wrong in our country.  Congress is a corrupted commons.  Shopping over-runs our local park.

Our nation was founded with surging anger that filled the streets and squares, the places that are owned by all of us.  The project of neo-liberalism in recent decades pulls funds from the government agencies that maintenance such places and then turns these stages for celebration and sorrow, volunteered entertainment, mixing of strangers in the urban tradition – over to the control of local businesses, socialite ladies, wealthy “conservancies.”

Gradually the old sites for gatherings of freedom-fighters, like Union Square in New York, have been smothered with police and big retail.  Union Square, the most important 1st Amendment site for a series of social movements that have shaped American life – from the first Labor Day parade to the huge peace marches after 9/11 – is shut-down as a public space.  It is run now by a group of 50 rich and super-rich in a glorified “Business Improvement District” or BID, with a private police force that I have seen boss around the real police.

The commons was destroyed and we were steered into the money-making environments of malls and chain stores.  In many cities, corporate retail is the only place where people can meet.  It is the “center of town.”  Once there, we are bombarded with the concentrated fire-power of corporate marketing.  Instead of trees and wrought iron and the sculpted stone of old buildings -  we suffer the seductions of super-models 50 feet tall sporting jewelry and underwear.

The police and courts went along with this shift to private property.  Shopping rose to a religio-economic status above all else.  Our prosperity and freedom depended on it, according to a series of presidents from Ronald Reagon to Bill Clinton and finally to George Bush’s famous statement after 9/11:  “If you love your country you go out shopping.”

Expressive politics has become impossible.   Either we are burdened with endless permits for gathering and amplified sound or we proceed in the fear that to exercise our basic freedoms puts us at risk of arrest.  In most cities it has become routine that large numbers of police rush to any gathering of citizens of any kind.  Respect for the police has fallen off in parallel to the disgust we have for politicians, as both professions seem to work for the rich and the corporations.  The United States Constitution does not seem to be their script.  The public’s freedom is no longer the goal.  The public is something to manage, to push into de-politicized consumption.

The vacuum in public space has left police without any countervailing force.  The rough democracy of speeches and music, the speaker’s corners, were always important for civic pride.  There needs to be a balance of power with the police, or they will rule the streets absolutely.  Unaware of the rights or feelings of their constituents, police and courts now have the power to decree a citizen’s death, because of what can only be described as their cultural isolation from the lives of the people that they swear to protect.

It makes sense to take the corporations up on their pretend public space.  Force them to take the public role they are incapable of.  Then re-open again our own commons, which waits with its 1st Amendment protections.  Public space must be public again.  The police who walk that beat must work for all the people.


Let’s consider for a moment the Honey Bee and its anticipated replacement, The RoboBee.  Let’s pay a visit to the frankenbee’s parents, Monsanto and DARPA.

The RoboBee is a mechanical bee in the design stage at the Micro-Robotics Lab, housed in a well-appointed building at Harvard University.  The RoboBee project’s Intelligence Office declares that the robotic inventors are inspired by the bee. The RoboBee project’s website and press releases use the imagery of the golden bees that we remember from our love of the cuddly buzzy honey-maker.

But something is wrong with this enterprise.  While the RoboBee’s press is nearly all positive, and open-faced students have posted euphoric UTube reports of their robotic work, the whole thing looks quite different to the people of the beekeeping community, who can’t help but point out that the real life Honey Bees and Bumble Bees are plummeting toward extinction.  

After one of our singing rituals at the laboratory, a public relations man named Paul followed us out proclaiming, “But we have nothing to do with colony collapse, and we’re sorry that the Honey Bee is dying…”   And yet the RoboBee project’s top goal, as stated on their website, is to achieve mechanical pollination.  So Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, et al – the Big Ag companies whose agricultural chemicals are driving the Honey Bee’s die-off, must be very interested in this Honey Bee drone.  How couldn’t they be waiting in the wings?  A robot bee would be invaluable as a pesticide-proof pollinator.  

These corporate giants apparently expect the RoboBee to come on-line just in time for the real insect’s extinction, since there is no evidence that they are reducing sales of the main suspect in the case of the vanishing bees, the neonicotinoid pesticides.  (…which must be a very profitable item, one third of the pesticides used world-wide this year will contain neonicotinoids.)  Every scenario for the death spiral of the bees involves these neuropathic chemicals.  The beekeepers report that pollen-laden Honey Bees cannot find their way to the home hive, their navigation systems short-circuited by neonicotinoids carried in their bodies.

Let’s go to the stage-mother of the fake bee: the drone-maker, DARPA.  The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is the well-known drone designer that projects American power as a deadly buzzing sound in the sky above the villages of the mid-east.  While American air-power always used the aerodynamics of falcons, ospreys and eagles – DARPA is teaching Pentagon futurists to dream of the quick turns and sneaky camouflage of bats, insects and hummingbirds.  

The RoboBee’s public relations flacks argue that the military has nothing to do with the RoboBee.  However, we have tapes of the lead scientist at the RoboBee’s lab, Dr. Rob Wood, publicly thanking DARPA for early financing of the project.  He is a “DARPA Young Fellow,” a million-dollar award given to researchers whose ≥&xC5;
35j,kl.,,l/ 75i75i6t7643work reflects the “values of the Department of Defense.”  The RoboBee proponents have made a tactical to use Harvard University and the National Science Foundation for a veneer of non-drone prestige.  

But there are smoking drones everywhere.  Military awards have been pinned to Rob Wood’s chest by the Navy and Air Force.  This wunderkind of nano-technology has even received a citation from that the President Barack Obama, drone warfar ’s most famous fan.  The RoboBee is a DARPA project and needs to be a part of Harvard’s burgeong divestment movement.

The flight of the RoboBee gives us a revealing map of how this marriage of executives and generals envision our future.  It shows us the interlocking techniques of the military and industrial GMO agriculture.  Monsanto’s factory farms have evolved toward the Pentagon’s approach to terrorism.  The chief chemist of Agent Orange wants to cover the world’s surface with mono-culture cash crops, where a single strain of, say, corn, is all you see to the horizon.  Pesticides and herbicides select and eliminate living things that are not contributing to profitability.  

There is collateral damage in this kind of farming.  Any living thing that we would call “wild” – is at risk.  Honey Bees from apiaries can be killed outright by the toxins, but also may not survive the Monsanto environment of dead wild plants and low-nutrient industrial crops.  People living in rural areas are exposed to these toxins.  Most tragically, indigenous people are swept aside by local bribed militia who present the leaders of traditional villages with rigged evictions and transfers of land title to the giant agriculture concerns.  This is going on now in Africa, the so-called “Green Revolution,” directed from the offices of Monsanto and the White House.  

With its agricultural theory of overwhelming force, Monsanto has joined the Pentagon’s presence in most countries. The two are rulers in the new corporatized planet.  Monsanto and the DARPA’s child, the RoboBee, fits this nightmarish Philip K. Dick future perfectly.  If one-third of the food we eat is pollinated by bees, then the out of control meandering of the Honey Bee is unacceptably inefficient.  The vast mono-cultures that these executives envision require “Smartbees,” computer-directed mechanical pollinators that go straight to designated flower targets.

But as James Brown once sang, wait a minute.   Anthropologists date our partnership with bees back into antiquity.  We’ve participated with the bee in its meandering brilliance for thousands of years.  We’ve loved the flight of the bee as it disappears headlong into the flower.  We love the taste of honey.  Wait a minute, does the RoboBee make honey?   Or is this robot bee in essence is a little bomber, taking off not from hives but from runways, heading out on its mission for American interests?

The Honey Bee is a lover, a honey-maker, a lyric in erotic songs, an endearment we give each other.  The RoboBee, on the other hand, is a drone being financed by the government.  This is weaponized nature.  The RoboBee is a killer.

It seems every week or so you can hear language borrowed from the War On Terror, the Salem Witch Hunts and the McCarthy hearings. Some prosecutor is hurling invective at fossil fuel resisters, who sit in the courtroom with their pro bono lawyers, staring with the disbelief of newcomers to Evil.

We know that there are heroes like the Sea Shepherd sailors, the Arctic 30, and Tim "Bidder 70" DeChristopher. Although some of these activists are young, we tend to think of them as veterans who are making a stand for the rest of us. But a new movement seems to be building, in which the heroes are people who might be described as amateurs. These are volunteer citizens who oppose fossil fuel projects near where they live - who resist with their bodies and no money. Something about these under-equipped protesters is making Big Oil go crazy.

Three Michigan women - Lisa Leggio, Barbara Carter, and Vicci Hamlin - chained themselves to an excavator in the little town of Mason. They were polite in that midwestern way throughout their protest of Enbridge, the Canadian firm that leaked 800,000 gallons of oil in their community, and can't seem to clean it up. After the conviction was read, Judge William Collette, a Republican and former bomber pilot, marched the ladies - one of them a great-grandmother - straight to jail from their defense table, despite their intentions to appeal.

Here we have a signature tactic of fossil fuel justice. Call it "overcharging," accusing nonviolent defendants of felonious crimes that will later be dropped, but meanwhile holding them in prison because the bail is too high. In this way, the personal turmoil in the families of the accused is maximized. Also, this is how the government and its partner corporations cast a pall of guilt on the innocent, making them look dark and dangerous on the local evening news.

Over-charging can quickly slide into creative charges that re-write the law. Our American alphabet soup of security, the DHS, NSA, FBI and TSA - is using a new charge on banner-droppers in Oklahoma City. Two activists in the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance are facing charges on perpetrating a "Bioterrorism Hoax" at the headquarters of extraction giant Devon Energy. This is a strange charge - that we cannot take an action that might excite the morbid imaginations of police. When some cheap glitter shook from one of the banners, the police reasoned that this might be chemical warfare. Stefan Warner and Moriah Stephenson face ten years in prison.

Over-kill is easy when you're Enbridge and Devon Energy, companies whose assets are in the $30 to $45 billion range. Behind the front line of fossil companies are the banks that finance them, such as Bank of America and Chase, HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland. The fossil-fuel-investing banks are bigger than most countries, with assets measured in the trillions. When these giants look over the shoulders of prosecutors and see someone everyone seems to know, who lives over on Elm Street, standing up to them - was anything more outside their business plan?

Even with the corrupting consultation of Big Oil, much happens in these courtrooms that seems unintended. The efforts to cast these home-made activists as dark assassins often backfires.

Vera Scroggins lives in a heavily hydrofractured area near the town of Montrose, in northeastern Pennsylvania. She has nonviolently but flamboyantly opposed the oil companies, even organizing a rally with Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon. The Cabot Oil and Gas Co., now owns much of property rights in and around Montrose, with a tangle of difficult-to-understand leases and easements, as well mineral rights beneath the homes of long-time citizens. Cabot is so upset with Ms. Scroggins, a 63 year old grandmother, that they persuaded a judge to issue an injunction that forbids her from walking anywhere on the 312 square miles around Montrose that Cabot somehow controls. This puts her under virtual house arrest. After being tailed by police for a few days, she realized that she couldn't figure out where it was legal for her to go. She couldn't walk to the pharmacy or her favorite diner. Scroggins has, surreally, asked the court for a map with legal trails through her own hometown.

The more innocent the protesters, the more terrified the billionaire's men. Grandmother Scroggins showed up in court to face Cabot alone, while the Cabot wall of suits was six lawyers deep. So they made her the exile on Main Street. Do they really believe that will be enough? Doesn't Vera Scroggins resemble the citizen volunteers who showed up early in the civil rights, the peace and gender rights movements? Isn't this entrenched power's historical nightmare - returning again to haunt them? The willingness to risk injury, jail or worse have made "ordinary people" into legendary figures. And these folks have kids and grandkids. What if these citizens really listen to what the scientists are saying, and realize that they nothing to lose but their loved ones - won't this make them the fiercest warriors of all?

You can't stop Vera Scroggins, or the Enbridge Three, or the Oklahoma City glitterati. You can't stop the families who over-ran the fracking equipment in West Sussex. You can't stop Bo Webb, the ex-marine in the coal-blasted mountains of West Virginia. You can't stop Idle No More, the natives in Canada and Utah blocking tar sands equipment from their sacred lands. You can't stop the young UK activists who climbed EDF Energy's smokestack and stopped those emissions for a week. You can't stop Grace Cagle from living in the pipeline-blocking treehouse. You can't stop the Zapatistas, the ultimate revolution by nonprofessionals, the families in the mountains of Chiapas, still going strong after twenty years. You can't stop Drew Hutton and the Lock the Gate ranchers in Queensland and New South Wales. You can't stop the Grandmothers Knitting Against Gas; or Wahleah Johns and the Navajo community trying to go solar; or Yvon Raoul in Alberta, playing bagpipes against tar sands; or the Liberate Tate museum-invaders, trying to pry big oil from the prestige of fine arts...

There are too many Vera Scrogginses to chase down, and too many to publicly defame, and too many to lock up. In the coming years, the irresistible force of the changing Earth and the supposedly immoveable object of fossil fuel industry will have a fight to the death. Whatever sort of apocalypse we're in for, the Earth will survive, and in the end I bet that Vera walks where-ever she wants to.


Today in Istanbul, the surprise Spring continues, with many thousands rising up against the abuses of Turkey's fundamentalist government.  At the beginning, though, it was a modest protest of the kind I have devoted my own life to:  resisting a new downtown mall, the bulldozers advancing on Genzi Park, the last green space in that part of the old city.  I've noticed that reporters think it is flukish that a park's destruction would launch a nationwide response.  The livability of trees and grass must be a separate issue from the human rights encroachments that sparked this passionate uprising.

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Tue Feb 12, 2013 at 07:01 AM PST

Where Did Nemo Come From?

by Reverend Billy

So I'm shoveling snow, trying to get my aging car out of the snow bank.  The blizzard has let up a bit.  Our ceiling is leaking.  The trees are beautiful.  The almost-3 year old is enthralled.  But I stop shoveling because I smell something fishy in the air.  Something is off about this storm.  Nemo.
Under the Disney fish in the sky is the acidifying Atlantic, with the living things down in the deep so depleted that the government orders the fishing fleets stay docked.   There are thousand-mile dead zones where once were bluefin tuna, cod, haddock, hake, halibut, herring, mackerel, pollock, salmon, sea trout, striped bass, sturgeon, and turbot.  The evolution of 500 million years, a beautiful storm of sea-life - vanished.  Now the Atlantic's only life is these monstrous fishy storms.
I'm shoveling snow in front of the house where my family lives.  All my work these days is shoveling corporate pixels away from our front-door, so that we can come and go freely.  In this climate-heating Information Age, I'm spooked by the storm of commercial information that flies down upon us.  The information and imagery of products - the blizzard of Nemo - covers up the information of extinction.  And what if we came to understand climate change beyond information, in a more visceral way.  What if we felt the death of the North Atlantic in the sleet hitting our faces.
The owners of the Weather Channel - who named this climate-change amped storm after the Disney character Nemo - are NBC media, the Blackstone hedge fund and Bain Capital. To them, the lifeless abyss that the storm came from is like a black hole in space. They try to cover it up by tripling Star Trek re-runs.  Throwing a Disney movie at it.  Pitching a whole Times Square into that darkness.  The fish are gone?  Name the storm that sweeps over the water Nemo, the adorable little fish that keeps multiplying because we can't stop buying it.
This is a cover-up of nature-murder, an interruption of life deeper than the loss of a single species.  What is imperiled is the process of Evolution, which is the creation of life.   So, this isn't mass murder, it is deep murder.   Consumerisms' CO2 is dumped in the sea, the precipitation/evaporation cycle speeds us, and the warmer moisture-laden air makes these energetic storms, storming the cities, avenging the eco-system murder.  Consumerism gives it a misleading name, trying to continue the profitable flow of poisons.  But Earth needs to subdue the murderers of the deep before returning to the making of life.  


Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 02:22 PM PST

Why Is Earth Activism So Quiet?

by Reverend Billy

The environmental movement ignores culture-making.  The classic strategy for Earth activism in the West is to shadow the perpetrator of the crime.  Thus the policy-making and lobbying of the most destructive corporations - is matched by policy-writers and lobbyists from the advocacy groups.  Even the websites of the Wildlife Conservancy and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) - resemble corporate graphics.

The number of people reached by the leading institutions of the environmentalism is a sliver of society.  The default position for most media is to remain silent about Earth, with coverage of Climate Change sliding since 2009 in the USA. There is silence until a climate disaster demands the top of the news.  

When revolutionary change came in the past century - the heralds of new values were comedians and singer-songwriters.  There were words, delivered by melody, beat, and/or outrageous personality.  From former times, we could cite John Lennon, Andy Kaufman, Lili Tomlin, Gil Scott Heron, Joe Strummer.  Who is it now?  Lady Gaga?  Shakira?  Stephen Colbert?  We must grow new performance artists of this international rank - whose passionate defense is Earth.  

Performers that might carry the Earth's message are not supported by the big budgets of the environmental movement, not by NGO's nor by their foundations.  They do not think of culture-makers as people that they can invest in.  Even as they watch more and more artists succumb to the dumbing down of corporate sponsorship - they hesitate to risk money on the Earth artists' wildness.  They stop at educational events, teach-ins, conferences with workshops - which is GREAT - as far as it goes, but….

Not betting on culture-making is the wrong decision.  It comes from fear.  There should be Earth activist producers roaming the small clubs right now, looking for the Bob Marley of the movement.  How much longer can the Earth's voices to go un-amplified?  My suggestion: look to the kind of culture-making that comes from the activist side.  Paul Watson, the Yes Men, the late Wanghari Maathi and her amazing speeches and tree-planting ceremonies, Julia Butterfly Hill and Tim DeChristopher.  

These are newsmakers who are always ready with a statement, a speech, a moral homily, a symbolic act that borders on drama.  And they offer a kind of entertainment by risking arrest.  The perp walk is the oldest performance.  When you expand the arts to include activists, then James Baldwin, Victor Jara, Emma Goldman's "Mother Earth," and Pete Seeger come to mind.  Let's not stand on ceremony.  The Earth needs bold dazzling words, with or without a guitar.  We need more Monkey Wrench Gangs, more Silent Springs.  I remember Rachel Carson personally confronting chemical executives…

In New York City - you would think that we need some Earth culture bad.  If only because we spew so much talk out to the world.  But our Earth performance goes from celebrities shilling about fracking all the way down to costume rituals in our community gardens.  (Of course there are artists doing daring Earth projects on their own, in wetlands, on rooftop with gardens - and they often work in unsupported obscurity.)  So you have the vast world of the New York stage - the dance, cabaret, Broadway, readings and concerts.  At the time of Hurricane Sandy, these thousands of stages were thoroughly free of drama about the Earth.  Sandy turned off those footlights.  

Ultimately, all culture will be about the Earth.  Nobody will be painting Campbell's Soup cans when the flood gets high and the fire gets hot.  We are being pulled into the extinction that we forced on the rest of the biosphere.  Our songs and dances and poems must express our desire to live - with such anguish and emergency and beauty! - that we rise to do the radical human act that matches the unprecedented action of the Earth.


Down on Henry Street just uptown from Foley Square in Manhattan, there is a church called Mariner's Temple.  One Sunday we were among hundreds of folks listening while Mother Henrietta Carter preached.  She stood up there, white-robed, and gestured out across the assembled faithful.  "We need to see some embracing today." Mother Carter said, and then she explained that two families were blessed just recently with newborn babies, in the same week…

She boomed out: "I want you two families - come down here and embrace each other!  We'll wait!  Oh, you come down here!  I know you two families been quarreling about something, you don't speak much anymore.  Oh we all know about it.  Now - You come down here and you embrace each other.  You bring those babies with you!"

The two families slowly come to Mother Carter and embraced.  They were in tears.  People called out "Praise!"

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Fri May 11, 2012 at 08:50 AM PDT

Occupy Jail, Occupy Big Banks

by Reverend Billy

We are submitting to the mug shots of an activist photographer.  We are confessing to crimes against big banks IN ADVANCE.  So there is a pre-criminal condition that we share.

The disappearers come at us from two directions.  Jail and big banks.  So we try to shed double light.  First, we feel the humiliation of the mug-shot, feeling the gaze of the security state, en route to the retinal shot and the strip search, the scramble to be represented legally, to be heard, to be free again.  But then free to do what?  Free to cause acute and articulate embarrassment, to destroy utterly the FAKE PRESTIGE OF BIG BANKS.   Will someone give me an Amen?  

JP Morgan Chase is the Devil, Citi and B of A complete the trinity of Evil.  Tops in climate-killing investments - billions of profits for creating C02 emissions - at the same time that they give the New York Police Department direct payments to keep the non-consumers (especially non-consumers of color) lost in the prison system.  The Stop Shopping Church singers spend time in the Tombs, like most Occupy workers, behind bars with the folks who are there for a much longer time, in many cases with no idea why they are there and unsure about basic legal questions.  A person can be late for something and take a short cut through the park and get caught in a sweep, god knows.  The guns that stopped them were paid for by Chase, and their homes were foreclosed by Chase, and the air that we all breathe is poisoned by Chase.  Here's an idea:  When we get out of here let's take some radical songs into the posh hushed lobby of JP Morgan Chase!

Come violate the front porches of the Vampire Squids with a counter-drama from the Stop Shopping Choir.  Over the summer months follow our campaign.  We'll take the theatrical stage of the bank lobbies of JP Morgan Chase, Citi, and Bank of America.  The art section is full of emoting actors on stages, but does Broadway have any electrical charge left?  Chase, Citibank and B of A - their lobbies are the stages of the Lake of Hellfire.  Wow!  That's a show!

To shout "You put billions into C02 emitting industries!" in a bank lobby - oh the echo comes back as the Devil's bad gas.  Come with us behind the lines.  Nothing - nothing is scarier than a big bank lobby.  Revolujah!


Thu Nov 24, 2011 at 07:16 AM PST

Nonviolence Is Creative

by Reverend Billy

Consumerism is violent.  The apologists for ads and products, life styles and brought-to-you-by media are disastrously wrong. The thousands of marketing confrontations that a person must get through daily are not persuasive, clever, or normal.  The 50 foot-tall actor wearing a watch and grinning at me - is not my new best buddy, Amen?  This is atmospheric assholishness…

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When I first came to this country 20 years ago, Guy Fawkes Night was something of a mystery. I enjoyed the bonfires, but thought them a bit vengeful at this distance; and I missed Hallowe’en. These days I don’t miss Hallowe’en, but I am still mystified by the celebrations around Mr Fawkes. That said, perhaps less so now that he has become the mask behind which the Occupy Wall Street movement operates; and that today, November 5, has been declared “Bank Transfer Day”. Don’t build a bonfire: move your money to a credit union or a more ethical bank, and you can be as present in what’s being billed as the uprising of the 99 per cent as if you were in a tent in Zuccotti Park, New York – or in front of poor old St Paul’s Cathedral.
Watching events in front of that edifice called to mind the Reverend Billy – and as it happens, a new book, The Reverend Billy Project: From Rehearsal Hall to Super Mall with the Church of Life After Shopping (University of Michigan Press), has just landed on my desk. Listening to the Archbishop of Canterbury speak about the protest made me wonder what the Rev would say. Who’s the Rev? Well, in civilian life he’s plain Bill Talen, but over the past dozen years he has become an important counter-cultural voice. At the end of the 1990s he launched what became the Church of Stop Shopping — latterly the Church of Life After Shopping. Talen, in white jacket, clerical collar and voluptuous quiff, rants like a revivalist preacher and has gathered around him a troupe of activists who provide a fine combination of entertainment and moral provocation.
“When the preaching started hitting its stride for the first time it was arranged around compelling evil,” Talen says of his protests centred on the Disney Store in Manhattan at the turn of the century. Evil? Really? But he goes on: “The sweatshop basis for the economy of Disney; the 20,000 sweatshops around the world; the marketing juggernaut that attacks childhood imagination.” He is “trying to save the souls of the tourist- consumers” — having just walked through Times Square, it is clear that his work is not yet done.
If we’re lucky, he might show up in London. Keep an eye out. Too few voices in this movement have thought hard about what they want and what they believe in — the Rev is one of them. Listen out and hear the word — amen.

Erica Wagner
November 5 2011 12:01AM
© Times Newspapers Limited 2011 | Version (29528)    1/2
11/13/11    Why we need Reverend Billy | The Times


Thu Nov 10, 2011 at 09:37 AM PST


by Reverend Billy

This little film shows Tuesday's simulcast between the London and New York OCCUPY communities.  I flew out to the encampment at St. Paul's Cathedral, and we sang the 99% song together, across the Atlantic - what a wonderful moment!  That made the whole London visit worth it - when Londoners held up a sheet to show the Stop Shopping Choir from Wall Street.

We want to go to OCCUPY communities carrying a message of courage as we head
into the winter - and as Wall Street/police wait us out.
Give a loved one this gift:  help the Stop Shoppers tour world of tent-cities.  
We'll make media of it for all the 2000 communities.

Yes children - Give the Gift that keeps on Occupying.  Revolujah!

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