Rev. Billy Talen Leads Congregation
Against Sit/Lie Measure

Written by Luke Thomas. Posted in Culture, Events, News, Politics

Published on October 26, 2010 with 6 Comments

Rev. Billy Talen and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir performed an exorcism of Proposition L yesterday in San Francisco, a controversial measure on the November ballot that would criminalize the act of sitting and lying on a sidewalk. Photos by Luke Thomas.

By Luke Thomas

October 26, 2010

The Rev. Billy Talen from the Church of Stop Shopping led a full choral congregation of sorts in San Francisco yesterday to exorcise the demons of Proposition L, a controversial Sit/Lie measure on the November ballot that would criminalize the act of sitting or lying on a sidewalk between the hours of 7am and 11pm.

“Let’s save the commons, protect public space,” the charismatic preacher said to his flock which included as many as one hundred Prop L protesters. “We’ve got to be able to sit down once in while, praise be.”

Set against a backdrop of dozens of green and yellow ‘No on L’ signs on the corner of Mission and 16th streets, Talen and the Life After Shopping Gospel Choir sang a rendition of the First Amendment before Talen began a short sermon denouncing fundamentalism and what he called a paranoia of fear.

“The First Amendment right to be in public space is inviolable,” Talen told FCJ during an interview following the service. “It can’t be compromised for paranoid visions of danger that are painted for us by upper-middle class people, or police, or anybody. What they’re doing is just painting this broad picture of lack of safety because of some kids that don’t take showers in the Haight, or whatever they’re coming up with. Real safety comes from our cooperation, working together.”

“We’re willing to go around the world bombing people because of an idea of lack of safety – that is nothing but paranoid,” Talen added. He called Proposition L a “fascist” idea.

Rev. Billy Talen looks skyward after completing an exorcism of Proposition L.

Joining Talen, District 11 Supervisor John Avalos said: “The police chief thinks he can change everything in San Francisco by talking to the establishment people, people who are funding the Prop L campaign, the people who think we can cleanse our sidewalks of the riffraff. We are riffraff. I am riffraff. He’s saying that the Board of Supervisors are playing politics with public safety, but this man has got some serious hubris, and that’s a demon.”

Supervisor John Avalos speaks out against Proposition L.

Blaming Mayor Gavin Newsom for a failure of his policies, candidate for District 6 Supervisor Debra Walker said, “Criminalizing the poor is an admission of failure by this mayor on his policies to end homelessness.”

“I am solidly supporting Prop M (police foot patrols). I think that we need to prioritize and mandate foot patrols in the Tenderloin – that’s going to be a big part of my program and policy once I’m elected into City Hall, working with the police and the community to establish effective community policing. All the studies around community policing shows that it (foot patrols) works, especially in urban areas.”

“District 6 is a perfect district for foot patrols, more bicycle patrols, actually engaging in the community to get the community’s help in reducing crime in the streets. So, yes on M, no on L,” Walker added.

Walker said the City would save money with the implementation of targeted foot patrols, the logic being that street crimes will be deterred by the presence of foot patrols resulting in a reduction of downstream prosecution and incarceration costs.

“If how we’re responding to crime on the streets is two or three police car responses, every time we have an emergency call on the street, it’s ridiculous,” she said. “So I think we can cut our automobile budget for the police, pass Prop M, and prioritize foot patrols and I think that the public will see a reduction in crime and safer streets, certainly in District 6 but also throughout the City.”


Debra Walker discusses her opposition to a Sit/Lie ballot measure (Prop L) and support for foot patrols (Prop M) on the November 2010 ballot.

A mother of a nine-month old son, Celina Gomes Sutton, said, “How can he be safe in a city willing to waste police time and money citing people for the innocent act of sitting instead of spending that time and money on developing real solutions and, dare I say, fighting real crime.”

She called Prop L “insane” and “a harmful way of thinking.”

“People do not come here because we promote fear and intolerance. They love it here because we don’t,” Sutton said.

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Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas

Luke Thomas is a former software developer and computer consultant who proudly hails from London, England. In 2001, Thomas took a yearlong sabbatical to travel and develop a photographic portfolio. Upon his return to the US, Thomas studied photojournalism to pursue a career in journalism. In 2004, Thomas worked for several neighborhood newspapers in San Francisco before accepting a partnership agreement with the SanFranciscoSentinel.com, a news website formerly covering local, state and national politics. In September 2006, Thomas launched FogCityJournal.com. The BBC, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, New York Times, Der Spiegel, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, 7x7, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Bay Guardian and the San Francisco Weekly, among other publications and news outlets, have published his work. Thomas is a member of the Freelance Unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521 and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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  • Brian Wallace

    Once again (is there no end?) Luke Thomas fails to disclose at the end his “news article” that he is a resident and a voter in District 6.

    And once again, Luke Thomas fails to mention he has provided photography services to the campaigns of Jane Kim, Jim Meko and Debra Walker.

    At least he stopped using staged campaign photos with his “news stories,” although the copy text isn’t all that different from the candidates’ websites.

  • Nate Miller

    Thanks for the Great Photos and Coverage! The idiots at fox news who came couldn’t even get a good shot, let alone make a story about what happened.

  • Ralph

    I loved the documentary “What Would Jesus Buy?,” an examination of the commercialization of Christmas in America while following Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir on a cross-country mission to save Christmas from the Shopocalypse (the end of humankind from consumerism, over-consumption and the fires of eternal debt.) Now that Reverend Billy is on the job, sit/lie doesn’t stand a chance.

  • http://soulpowered.tumblr.com/ Robert B. Livingston

    Sit/Lie is less fascist than simply ridiculous (what astute comments from Celina Gomes Sutton!).

    Sadly, it is a perfect foil to corral the more progressive-minded who seldom fail to recognize a good stepping stone to ever narrower personal consequence.

    I know I am supposed to cheer for these obvious defenders of human decency: “Ich ein Riffraff!” Indeed.

    But whether Prop L passes or not, I don’t see much actually changing for our growing population of immiserated poor who are orphans, outcasts and refugees to our wealthy city. Beyond the occasional narcissistic hoedown, they are unlikely to identify themselves with any of the tony suits coming from or aspiring to City Hall.

    Instead, they walk around in circles, less sit, many of them like zombies– hoping to get through another humiliating day. Many are grateful for t-shirts with corporate logos, cigarette butts that missed the tidy-traps, and stringy chicken in mash (don’t stray far if you want some; thanks for contributing to the smorgasbord, Mr. Buffett).

    I know. I know. It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness– but for heaven’s sake isn’t it about time someone used that damned thing to find the fusebox?

    The enemy is much more than the doggerel Poop L of Newsom, Gascon and a handful of uptight “citizens”.

    The enemy is the truly fascist system that uses two parties to ever fool us with skirmishes and our need to associate into trading real human decency for more immiseration, and war.

    It is time to quit stomping and start kicking.

    In San Francisco, what kick could send a more businesslike message than altogether ending any affiliation with the Democratic and Republican Parties?

    We shouldn’t play to the agenda of a broken system: we should force a new agenda.

    Let the players spend their campaign money and find a zero on election day. Fuck ‘em if they catch me sitting in the sun.

  • lisapelletier

    Great shots and write-up, Luke! I also liked what Celina Gomes Sutton and Debra Walker had to say. Events like this are important to show that the community won’t stand for intolerance against the poor, homeless and disenfranchised people. You don’t have to play into a broken agenda of the two-party duopoly. But I do think it’s important to vote against this measure because it will have very real consequences for the homeless, the poor and people of color.

  • http://groups.yahoo.com/group/patmonkrn/ Patrick Monk

    Don’t think it can happen here. Open your eyes and look around. For too many people it’s been happening for far too long.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftOY8wOtq7l