Reverend Billy -- Journalisms -- Out of Jail - Into Free Speech
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The trial concluded last Thursday, and 12 jurors found me guilty of obstructing a lawful business. The LA City Prosecutor slowed down the surveillance tape of our action last April 19th to persuade the jury that our Cash Register Exorcism slowed down or stopped a customer from buying a latte. Of course, IT DID, and I AM guilty, if you consider Starbucks business lawful...yes we obstructed it. At one point I danced on the counter.
I hope you members of the Church will, if not dance up on that stage, at least pray over Howard's sinful cash, try to reverse its flow, back to the coffee families in Guatemala and sourthern Mexico.
The judge agreed with the prosecution that there couldn't be any "politics" from our side, although sometimes the illustrious representative of the People sounded like an ad for Starbucks. At one point five members of the jury admitted that they go to Starbucks regularly, and the foreman was a retired, lifelong employee of the Central Intelligence Agency. Come to think of it, I can see why Starbucks went after us out in the San Fernando Valley.
At one point I faced the jury, pointing to a large map of the Starbucks. I took them through color coded tables and chairs, tracing our journey toward the cash register in question. Then my lawyer, Mark Wolfe, asked me what I said in my prayer over the cash appliance. There were four consecutive I OBJECT THE DEFENDENT'S PERSONAL VIEWS ARE NOT RELEVANT.
Mark replied "How do we go to the intention of the alleged crime?" The judge finally asked me, "Well, what did you say? Say it once. Only once." And so I got my 4 minutes in court, and we've got the transcript and we'll post it. I tried to make the children out in those coffee fields appear in the courtroom. Maybe they did. I wonder if the jury members have gone back to their lattes.
I went to jail, where there is no coffee of any kind. The LA County Correctional Facility is as bad as The Tombs. Just miles and miles of people in that underground world, almost all Hispanic or African Americans of course. The gangs are the shadow government there, and I had a rather formal interview by some coalition of Crips, Bloods, and, well, a number of large men with shaved heads and Aztec tattoos, let's say. Some of them assumed I was a cop, but mostly they were perplexed. I talked about dancing on the counter of the Starbucks, and about how billionaire Howard Schultz gets his coffee on the cheap because he doesn't pay the families who bring it to market. They are out there with their children and grandparents desperately trying to increase their output, some of the kids are six and seven years old...
All this was better known to these guys; they are educated on the impact of the globalized coffee economy in a way that most liberals aren't. Anyway, they called me "Starbuck" throughout my stay, and there was always one near me, walking me through the fluorescent tunnels. I felt safe.
So I'm out now. The choice to go to a jury trial, and then to go to prison, somehow felt right, after Bush's election especially. I needed to go down into the world we make. Discussing the decisions with Savitri and the choir -- we were aware that going voluntarily into this bad prison would drive the information about the coffee families farther into the mediasphere. That has happened. LA Weekly, LA Times, NPR. Just before this writing, I was able to connect the leader of the Labor Education in the Americas Project with a writer for the Chicago Tribune. Here in LA we had Cal State students doing Retail Interventions in the Highland Hollywood mall... getting back inside Starbucks to pray over the money while the ban from the Devil's Cafe is still echoing in the courtroom. Amen!
Note for those in New York: In his first post-incarceration public appearance, Reverend Billy will perform at the Freedom of Expression National Monument tomorrow, Nov 11th, at 12:30pm. Spend a half hour with us exalting the 1st Amendment through the Gloriously Goofy Red Bullhorn! J, M, Z to Chambers St./Brooklyn Bridge | 4, 5, 6 to Brooklyn Bridge | R,W To City Hall -- At the intersection of Centre & Pearl St