Rev Billy Busted

Back at the end of July, I photographed the Rev Billy and his team, including those who responded to his call in London, rehearsing and then performing with his Golden Toads against climate killers inside the large branch of the HSBC bank at Victoria.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

Then he didn’t need the bust number on his arm, and the performance inside the bank went without problems.

© 2013, Peter Marshall

© 2013, Peter Marshall

The bank did make a call to the police, but by the time they arrived the Golden Toads and the other protesters were outside on the pavement and after a brief glance at them, the police went inside to talk to the bank staff, and took no further action. They did seem rather amused – like others who stopped to watch – by the performance.

But when the Rev Billy and his choir repeated the performance in the Chase bank in Manhattan, New York’s finest were less amused, and perhaps even slower off the mark. They only caught up with the team after they had left and were taking the subway, when the train was slow to arrive. The Rev Billy and Music Director Nehemiah were arrested and handcuffed, but the toads escaped, although police nabbed most of the toad heads. But you can read the story in the inimitable words of the Rev Billy Bulletin, here squashed a little to fit this blog:

Charged with Riot

Today’s voyage in a Climate Killing big bank – Chase  – was myriad in its results.  The singers in the toad-heads   (most of which were eventually stolen by the poiice ) were an inspiration.  Our run into the bank through the downpour was dramatic, and our arrival in the bank was a confrontation with rich people,  mostly thin blonde women and bald men, seeemed like.  The Music Director Nehemiah ran through the song in the deli across the street and our toad-singers filled the bank with “Climate-Changers we surround you. Your the Ghost and we have found you.”

The singing toads were brave, hopping and swimming all the way to the end of the rows of Chase desks, where bankers talk to the upper Manhattan rich about their portfolios.  We preached and sang and left the premises before the cops even arrived, knowing at that point we needed to escape.  We were arrested down in the subway, in the hot wind of the finally arriving downtown F train.  Nehemiah and I were cuffed, while 8 others got away.  We stood there by the turnstiles in our handcuffs.  The older Giuliani cop goaded us with comments like “Do you think this is funny?” — YES! Climate Change is hilarious, truth is we were laughing a lot- there were just so many cops.  We were taken to jail, charged with Disorderly Conduct and Riot.  Riot?  We sat in the prison cell through the afternoon, waiting to go to the Tombs.

Nehemiah and I were so surprised we started laughing again when the police unlocked the door and told us we were free to go.  Did the cops want us to go?  There is always this discretion… you sense it.  Who decides if we stay for days and days?  But there was a visceral identification that the police had with us.  Everyone in the precinct house wanted an explanation of our action.  When we said that Chase was financing climate disruption  –  the cops agreed!   The thing is… we believe that employees inside the big banks also know this.  Most Americans know that the biosphere is dying by human violence, whether chemicals, bulldozer blades or outright population growth.  We are all behind this great structure that we cannot surmount.  This corporate wall.  But we know that the Earth crisis is a kind of cry.   The Earth cries out to us, or THROUGH us.

We are the Earth’s cry as we shout in the banks that finance all that death.  So while I was in jail I tried to think of myself as a jailed Earth being, an Earth expression stopped in a box with bars.  Then suddenly Nehemiah and I were free, and it seemed  like even the cops around us knew that shouting inside a bank about it’s climate-killing investments is a good thing.

photo: Erik Mcgregor

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