Thursday, June 7, 2007

Reverand Billy & the Church of Stop Shopping

When I first saw Reverend Billy on Democracy Now! I wasn't sure if it this was an elaborate joke that Amy Goodman was playing on her audience or what! Amy is not exactly known for her sense of humor so I watched intently to see if a smile would crack somewhere. A smile did appear but it also became abundantly clear that this is no joke. Reverend Billy is as serious as a heart attack. He is a performer similar to The Yes Men, drawing attention to the hypocrisy, and sometimes evil, perpetuated by corporate America and the sleepwalking American consumer. Bill Talen's book What Should I Do If Reverend Billy Is in My Store? calls us to witness the high drama of cash register exorcisms, his choir singing anti-Starbucks anthems, and many more antics that have gotten him arrested.

From a May 9th, 2007 Democracy Now! report: "Following Public Campaign For Trademark Efforts, Coffee Giant Starbucks Signs Licensing Deal that Could Bring Millions to Ethiopian Farmers" —

AMY GOODMAN: Many say the public pressure on Starbucks helped force them into the licensing agreement. Activists from the Ethiopian community, regional fair trade coalitions, university students, consumer groups all got involved. Perhaps the most vocal of public campaigns was the one started by Reverend Billy, the founder of the Church of Stop Shopping. He took his campaign to the doorsteps of Starbucks coffeehouses. With his choir in tow, Reverend Billy launched his Sidamo Prayer Campaign in February in front of the Starbucks at Astor Place in Manhattan.

[From a video of the demonstration being shown]
REVEREND BILLY: This is the beginning of a campaign of a struggle that will result in a basic shift in the policies of that multinational union-busting corporation we have across the street. They are confronted with the devil, the devil in the form of a mermaid that has no nipples! Amen? Hallelujah! We will walk across the street and drive the demons out of that cash register! They’re trapped in an economic situation that comes straight from Davos, comes straight from the WTO, comes straight from the World Bank, comes straight from Starbucks! Will you come inside with us?

AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Billy being taken out of a Starbucks coffeehouse here in New York. Well, Reverend Billy joins us now in our firehouse studio. You were arrested?

REVEREND BILLY: Yes, not long after the cash register exorcism was completed. I spent the night in the Tombs at Starbucks’s insistence, and I witnessed the phone call come from Starbucks to the precinct house.


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