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Performance-Activist Preacher Gets Charges Dropped

By Steven Wishnia | Dissent News Wire | April 1, 2015

Members of New York’s Church of Stop Shopping can say “Hallelujah!”—or “Earthalujah!,” as is their wont. This morning, criminal charges stemming from a Black Lives Matter protest last January were dismissed against their preacher, William “Reverend Billy” Talen.

Talen was arrested while “sermonizing” during a 24-hour vigil in Grand Central Station Jan. 6. The vigil, one of almost daily protests in the commuter-rail station’s concourse after a grand jury declined to indict the police officer who killed Eric Garner in August, arrayed placards with the names of people killed by police on the marble floor. Police said Talen pushed an officer after refusing to remove the placards. A video shows officers picking them up while Talen gesticulates in activist-evangelist schtick, and a white-shirted police inspector grabbing his arms. He was charged with disorderly conduct and obstructing governmental administration.

“I was arrested while speaking on behalf of Black Lives Matter,” Talen said in an email to supporters. “Five kinds of police stood there watching: Homeland Security, NY state troopers, National Guard, NYPD, and police from the [Metropolitan Transportation Authority], whose officers did the handcuffing. Later, sitting in the jail cell, I listened to the police try to decide what to charge me with. I was given the usual protest charges of Disorderly Conduct and Obstruction. These charges are a complete fiction and videotapes showed this within hours of the We Will Not Be Silent rally. That evidence was available to the District Attorney’s office eleven weeks ago.”

In February, Talen was offered a conditional discharge, in which charges would be dropped if he didn’t get arrested for six months, but he refused to take it. His lawyer said the charges were “just not true” and that police were harassing him.

“The 1st Amendment is rising again,” Talen wrote. “The five freedoms—worship, speech, press, assembly and petition—suffer when we’re at war. Security trumps freedom. Even Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus. But 9/11 was 15 years ago.”

He is also suing the MTA, the agency that runs New York’s subway, bus, and commuter-rail system, for defamation, because a spokesperson told the New York Post that he had physically attacked police.

April 2, 2015 - Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , ,

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