NYCCM: First Amendment Upheld (If Only For Paperwork Reasons)
Case Is Dropped Against Crusading Street Performer
By ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS
New York Times | 15-Nov-2007
The Manhattan district attorney's office quietly dropped its
prosecution today of Reverend Billy, a street performer accused
of harassing police officers by reciting the First Amendment at
a rally in Union Square Park.
Prosecutors said today that they deliberately allowed the case
to be dismissed by failing to meet a court-ordered deadline to
file papers explaining why the arrest of Reverend Billy, whose
real name is William Talen, was justified.
"Sometimes not making a decision is a good decision," one
Judge Tanya R. Kennedy made it official at a brief hearing in
Criminal Court in Manhattan. "The people did not serve a written
response," she said, "so the motion to dismiss is granted on
At the same time, Judge Kennedy dismissed separate charges
against Mr. Talen, who is the head of what he calls the Church
of Stop Shopping, for trespassing at a Starbucks during a
protest against corporate conformity.
"They essentially threw in the towel," one of Mr. Talen's
lawyers, Earl Ward, said after the hearing.
Today's hearing stemmed from Mr. Talen's arrest in June, after
he repeatedly recited the 45 words of the First Amendment
through an unamplified megaphone during a rally in support of
bike riders. The police said he refused to stop when they asked
him to, and followed them around.
Mr. Talen's case had been championed by Mr. Ward and Norman
Siegel, both civil rights lawyers, as a symbol of what they said
is the Bloomberg administration's hostility to public protest
and civil disobedience exhibited through measures like permit
requirements for even small public protests.
Mr. Siegel said the dismissal was not the end of the road for
Reverend Billy. He said he would file a federal lawsuit against
the city and the Police Department charging false arrest,
malicious prosecution and violation of Mr. Talen's free-speech
"We call this trial by inconvenience," Mr. Talen said, adding
that between the two cases he had been required to appear in
court six times and spend three nights in jail.
"There are a number of questions," Mr. Siegel said. "Who ordered
the arrest? Why put him through the system when he should get a
desk appearance ticket? Who made the decision to take five
months before getting the case dismissed?"
He called the case "a classic example of government abuse of