As years of yelling TV has endeavored to shred mutual respect and corrupt discourse among civil society, New Yorks’ The Reverend Billy has steadfastly taken to our public spaces to practice the art of free speech. Variously described as activist, artist, performer, or candidate for NY mayor, the Left Reverend and his various musical companions injected humor and levity into the heaviest issues of our day long before Jon Stewart added motion graphics.
Taking his own brand of street theater to a San Francisco street, a city that historically celebrates all manner of public demonstrations of opinion, Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping are raising awareness of and opposition to a proposition at the polls next Tuesday, Proposition L.
According to the online San Francisco newspaper SFAppeal.com, Proposition L would “ban sitting or lying on a public sidewalk between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., with exceptions for disabled persons using wheelchairs, parades and protests, lawful sidewalk businesses, or waiting in a line.” In an interview with the Fog City Journal, the Reverend rebukes this proposition in the name of free speech, “The First Amendment right to be in public space is inviolable. It can’t be compromised for paranoid visions of danger that are painted for us by upper-middle class people, or police, or anybody.”
“He’s Making Sitting a Crime”
In this image by Mikl-Em from Laughing Squid.com, a Street Art poster has been put in a bus shelter to protest San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom and George Gascón, Chief of the San Francisco Police Department, who are in both in favor of Proposition L.
It is unclear who made this poster, but it is interesting how Street Artists insist on appropriating the public space for speech. When they do it to impact an election or proposition on a ballot, it illustrates how at least some Street Artists are far more engaged in the civil discourse than we might think.
Image © Mikl-Em