Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday Afternoon in SoHo: Rev. Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir and Picture the Homeless Occupy Bank of America to Protest Foreclosure Policies

Early this afternoon -- Black Friday to some, Buy Nothing Day to others -- we joined with the New York City community groups Reverend Billy & The Stop Shopping Choir and Picture the Homeless for a protest action at the Bank of America branch at the corner of Houston and Lafayette Streets.

On this day when so many around us were shopping, we occupied the bank in the heart of chic, fashionable SoHo (okay, technically just over the border of NoHo) to sing and pray and have a dinner, courtesy of the kitchen of Occupy Wall Street, in honor of Kendall Jackman,

who just two years ago was living an ordinary life renting a brownstone in Brooklyn but who today is homeless,

the victim of one of millions of home foreclosures across the country.

We walked over from our organizing point at the corner of Crosby and Jersey Street, across from the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, around 1 p.m. with chairs, a table, dishware, silverware, the delicious dinners, and two nice paintings donated by the late Kurt Vonnegut and Reverend Billy Talen to make Kendall feel at home in the bank which foreclosed on her landlord and forced her to leave the still-unoccupied building that BofA foreclosed upon.

For us, the most moving part of the creative protest was when Reverend Billy & The Choir sang their beautiful song "We are the 99%" (as we gather together)"

The occupation of the bank lasted about twenty minutes after we entered and set everything up.

Apparently at least one police car drove by and looked in and decided just to move on. Beforehand, Reverend Billy said this was not going to be "an arrest situation," and with no cops around or interested in interfering, it didn't turn out to be.

We were incredibly impressed with the efficient planning that went into this action, which itself reminded us of the "zaps" of the Gay Activist Alliance of the 1970s and ACT-UP in the 1980s and some of the more imaginative Vietnam war protest we were involved in.

Savitri D and the other members of the group are extremely competent and amazingly savvy.

People were assigned individual tasks, and they seemed incredibly determined and dedicated.

The group had its own media people, and someone from WNYC covered the event.

Everything seemed to move with the proficiency of some kind of Navy SEALS covert action as the group moved from Crosby Street

with all the food, furniture and props.

Like us in Arizona, Bill Talen ran for political office as a candidate of the Green Party. He won about 8900 votes for Mayor of New York City in 2009.

The takeover of the Bank of America branch made a serious point about the need for financial institutions to take responsibility for their role in creating the crisis of the past few years and the continuing vast inequalities that have spurred the Occupy movement.

It was nice to see Reverend Billy's own father, above, at the event. We're very grateful to everyone who made it possible, and we know they'll keep fighting the good fight.

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