Reverend Billy Talen is facing jail time for a frog-themed protest at JP Morgan Chase Bank in Manhattan. Credit: Flickr User Brave New Films
Environmental activist Bill Talen, more commonly known as Reverend Billy, could be facing up to a year in prison for organizing a musical protest that brought singing, dancing activists to a Manhattan JP Morgan Chase Bank last month — all dressed as frogs.
The protesters, all members of Talen's Stop Shopping Choir, went up to the bank's third floor where the wealth management offices for private clients are located and burst into song. They handed out information sheets about the impact of Chase investments on the environment to bank customers and employees while Talen gave a sermon about climate change. The choir members were dressed as the Central American golden frog, a species now extinct as the result of climate change.
Talen and the choir's musical director, Nehemiah Luckett, were arrested moments later on a subway platform.
Last week, they were charged with riot in the second degree, menacing in the third degree, unlawful assembly and two counts of disorderly conduct — charges that carry up to a year in prison. The assistant district attorney described the protest as a "criminal stunt."
Talen told environmental news website Grist that he was aware the trial would be an uphill battle.
"Our researchers have it that JP Morgan Chase is one of the top financiers of climate change disruption in the world, and we’re handing out that information and that is a very sensitive thing," he said. "I think that we’re in dicey territory here because JP Morgan Chase is basically the government of New York."
A petition on Change.org requesting that Dictrict Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. drop all charges against Luckett and Talen is seeking 10,000 signatures. As of Sunday afternoon it had more than 3,500.