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Occupy Wall Street Support, Reverend Billy Not Guilty in Opposing MTR at UBS

Reverend Billy from The Church of Life After S...

Image via Wikipedia

Today in Manhattan Criminal Court Honorable Judge James Burke found longtime NYC activist Reverend Billy Talen not guilty of Criminal Trespass in the Third Degree. Talen was represented by attorneys Wylie Stecklow and Samuel Cohen.

On Black Friday 2010 Reverend Billy and The Stop Shopping Choir entered the public lobby of the UBS Bank building on 7th avenue in midtown Manhattan dressed as angels. They sang songs highlighting the banks financial interests in Mountaintop Removal (MTR) a highly toxic coal extraction process used in Appalachia and mountainous regions throughout the world. Reverend Billy urged UBS to divest from MTR, which poses a grave threat to the environment, releasing toxic levels of heavy metals into the air and the water table. Cancer rates in Appalachia are nearly twice the national average.  

Attorney Wylie Stecklow commented that “Reverend Billy enjoyed support from Occupy Wall Street as the message remains the same, corporate domination of our political elections and legislative branches, millions of dollars spent in lobbying to influence deregulation, must end.  Living, breathing people must be given a voice in our participatory democracy.”

Reverend Billy was arrested shortly after the action and charged with Criminal Trespass in the Third Degree and faced up to three months in jail. Criminal Trespass in the Third Degree requires that the space in question be gated and enclosed to keep the public out. The prosecution was unable to prove that the building was either closed to the public or gated and were also unable to provide police witnesses to the alleged crime. Talen was found not guilty.

According to Talen’s attorney Sam Cohen “This ruling sends a message to corporations that inducing police to overcharge for acts of protest and dissent is not a winning strategy,  the law applies equally to everyone and we are pleased that the court agrees.”

Reverend Billy and The Church of Stop Shopping, a community of 100 activists and artists, many of whom are actively involved with the Occupy Wall Street movement, demand that corporations honor their publicly stated environmental policies and vow to continue to pressure corporations to include communities in their decision making process. “Mountain Top Removal is killing people in Appalachia and destroying one of the most glorious and biodiverse regions in the world. Today I witnessed a judge do the right thing, he heard the arguments and honored his conscience. The spirit of the 99% is rising.”

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