A nationally known political and cultural dissident has decided to run for the mayor of New York City as a Green Party candidate. He is “Reverend Billy,” whose real name is William C. Talen, and he will need 7,500 signatures to get on the ballot against New York’s incumbent mayor, independent Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg himself has yet to secure a spot on the ballot, even though he overturned the city’s term limits laws (which had previously been approved multiple time by voters) in order to run for a third term.
Reverend Billy is the Reverend for the Church of Stop Shopping, and he preaches against the “shopocalypse.” The persona of the Reverend is a satirical tool for Talen to speak out against materialism and imperialism and everything else that he sees as sucking the soul out of our country. His comical attempt at activism has been incredibly successful, with many national television appearances (including the CBS Evening News), a movie made about him (What Would Jesus Buy, produced by Morgan Spurlock), and countless appearances in person. He has even recorded an ad for the Green Party of Ireland in the past month or so.
The New York Times has a feature article on Reverend Billy’s recently announced run for mayor in today’s New York section. According to the article, his campaign is hoping to raise at least $250,000 in order to qualify for matching funds. The Green Party there seems hopeful:
He did make it clear that he did not approve of Mr. Bloomberg’s pursuit of a third term. “We’re at a critical point in the city’s history right now,” he said. “The mayor’s trying to privatize Union Square. We’re surrounded by logos everywhere. We need to oppose that.”
Reverend Billy, who grew up in the Midwest and arrived in New York from San Francisco in 1994, has long been known for his colorful street-theater tirades on what he sees as corporate intrusions on American life. He was arrested during a protest in Union Square in 2007 and that year was the subject of the documentary “What Would Jesus Buy?”
But Gloria Mattera, the co-chairwoman of the Green Party’s campaign committee, insisted that this was a serious candidacy. “We’re planning on talking in each borough,” she said. “Our team is already formed. This is a chance not just to stand up against Bloomberg but to stand up against corporate interests as well.”
Mr. O’Neil said the campaign hoped to raise at least $250,000 to qualify for matching funds from the city.
“He’s the alternative that we’re desperate for,” said one supporter, Elizabeth Culbert, 34, a freelance writer who lives in the West Village. “He’s worked for so many years for New York, and I think he’ll put up an extremely good fight.”