New York's Union Square is the scene of a lively protest featuring Rev. Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping. At stake is the square's pavilion, which is set to be transformed into a restaurant.
Celebrity chef Danny Meyer is thought to be the main proponent of turning the public space into a private restaurant.
"Meyer is the chair of the The Union Square Partnership, a Business Improvement District or BID, and the suspected source of an anonymous $7-million donation to the city, given on the condition that the the park's pavilion be turned into a private restaurant. Currently, construction for the renovation is halted under a court injunction after legal action filed by the community group."
"'BIDs are constantly trying to convince communities that they have their interests in mind-in fact they have business in mind, shopping in mind' said Savitri, an organizer who goes by one name. Referring to Meyer, she said "we hold him personally responsible for this.'"
The event "aimed to dramatize organizers' belief about the connection between public space and the freedom of expression. The Stop Shopping Choir chanted and sang the First Amendment, while Reverend Billy regaled greenmarket passers-by with the Pavilion's free speech history as the staging ground for activism by Emma Goldman and others, as well as post 9-11 anti-war actions."