Out of Jail - Into Free Speech

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.  


rev billy - banned from every Starbucks in the World!!

Fellow art/activist/friend and inspiration Rev Billy, from the Church of Shopping has been banned from every Starbucks in the World for his actions of liberating space and consumers.

We declare solidarity with the Reverend in his battle against this evil corporation.

Bless you, Reverend.


more on the rev billy case.

Jury selection for Starbucks vs Reverend Billy will commence October 21st, as the coffee giant charges the Reverend with Destruction of Property and disturbing the caffeination of pseudo- bohemians. A Cease and Desist Order already enjoins Reverend Billy, aka Bill Talen, from 'disturbing, stalking, or "sexually harassing" the "computerized cash registers" of the Starbucks Corporation. This Los Angeles Superior Court ruling, specifying a 250 yard "No Billy Zone" around all Starbucks property in the State of California, banishes the New York City-based activist from a land mass the size of the Island of Hawaii, and effectively eliminates passage through Los Angeles International Airport. Not satisfied, last Thursday Starbucks headquarters notified Talen of persona non grata status in "all Starbucks facilities in the known world."

The trial will review a Church of Stop Shopping retail intervention on April 19th, 2004 where Reverend Billy exorcised a Northridge Starbucks cash register. Allegedly, this ritualistic Laying on of Hands ripped the machine's plastic spit guard and gouged the Reverend's palm. Over 15 local activists and Stop Shopping Gospel Choir members claim witness to the holy roller's "stigmata," but the Reverend himself refuses to confirm if the wound bears mystical significance.
The criminal complaint could result in 60 days in prison. Art Goldberg of the Working People's Law Center, representing the Reverend, turned down the guilty plea offering of 24 hours in jail or 10 days cleaning Los Angeles city highways. A recent Nova Scotia study blamed coffee cups for one-third of their highway litter.