Professional protester and self-described Earthalujah preacher Reverend Billy Talen was arrested today while preaching in Grand Central Station about police brutality, the NYPD has confirmed to the Village Voice.
Talen was attending a twenty-four-hour vigil against police violence called “Carry the Names.” Several tweets under the hashtag #CarryTheNames describe the vigil as consisting of participants’ reading aloud the names of citizens who have been killed by police, and laying signs on the ground in their honor.
According to Talen’s Facebook page, he was expected to “sermonize” at the vigil. It appears he was arrested after speaking for at least two minutes.
“We do not know very much about what happened yet,” says Marnie Glickman, the communications director for Talen’s Stop Shopping Gospel Choir. The group has, however, located a video, of what seems to involve a cluster of police sweeping in and confiscating the group’s signs as Reverend Billy mysteriously disappears:
“Are you serious? You arrested Billy? Where’s Billy?” a protester is heard in the video asking a police officer.
“I don’t know,” the officer mutters.
“He wouldn’t [leave]. That’s not his style,” the protester says. “It’s more your style than our style.”
According to a police spokeswoman, Talen was told to remove signs placed on the floor that could be a hazard to commuters walking by. After an officer tried to take one of the signs, police said, Talen pushed the officer. He was arrested with charges of obstructing governmental administration and disorderly conduct shortly after 12:30 p.m. Talen was the only person at the protest who was arrested. (Update: an MTA spokesperson has since confirmed a second arrest at the protest. The Daily News identified the arrestee as Marc Train.)
Talen didn’t answer calls to his cellphone, but his partner, Savitri D, told the Voice she spoke with a “pretty ticked off” Talen over the phone after the arrest.
“He said he wasn’t resisting,” she said. “They just clearly wanted him not to be there.”
The vigil had gone on peacefully for eighteen hours before the arrest, and Savitri said she’s glad the arrest didn’t stop the protest, which continued until 5 p.m. “This is a First Amendment violation,” she says. “And it’s terrible, because it keeps us from talking about the lives being taken by police.”
Talen is expected to spend the night in “The Tombs” — the Manhattan Detention Complex in Tribeca. He’s not entirely unfamiliar with the place: Talen has been arrested at least fifty times for various political actions.
“Good thing he’s wearing those amazing wool army pants I got in France all those years ago,” Savitri D wrote on Facebook. “But I don’t know how far he’s going to get on the modest oatmeal breakfast we had before he left.”
— Reverend Billy Talen (@revbillytalen) January 6, 2015