Rev. Billy ratchets up pressure to ban RoundUp

BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH | Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping want the City Council to “cast out” Monsanto’s demonic spawn by passing Councilmember Ben Kallos’s bill banning chemical pesticides and herbicides in the city.

The singing reverend, real name Bill Talen, and his choir protested in City Hall Park on May 8, to keep up the pressure on the city to stop using Bayer AG’s bestselling weed killer, RoundUp. The herbicide’s active ingredient, glyphosate, has been linked to causing cancer and other health problems. RoundUp was originally manufactured by the Monsanto corporation but it sold the product to Bayer for $63 billion last year.

As his choir members staged a RoundUp-induced die-in, activist Reverend Billy took a knee and wiped away a tear during a protest against the carcinogenic herbicide at City Hall Park. The activists hope the City Council will pass Councilmember Ben Kallos’s bill banning use of all chemical pesticides and herbicides in city parks. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)
(Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

According to the activist performance group, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation used the spray in parks last summer. And according to a representative from Kallos’s office, the Parks Department is not a fan of the bill.

A map on Reverend Billy’s Web site (https://www.revbilly.com/map) claims to show where glyphosate has been used by the Parks Department around the city.

The Upper East Side councilmember reintroduced the bill on April 18, adding himself to the list of city and state legislators pushing to ban the herbicide, which the World Health Organization classified as a carcinogen in 2015. Hawaii became the first state to ban RoundUp in 2018.

As members of the Stop Shopping Choir sang an anti-RoundUp song to the trees in City Hall Park, above, Reverend Billy gave a sermon on the dangers of the popular weed killer, whose active ingredient has shown to cause health problems in humans. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)
Reverend Billy and his hazmat-suit-clad choir pray for the day the parks will be free of toxic pesticides and herbicides. (Photo by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech)

“Parks should be for playing, not pesticides,” Kallos said in a statement.

Shortly after Kallos reintroduced the bill, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reaffirmed its stance that glyphosate does not cause cancer.

The Parks Department said, in the past five years, it has made more of an effort to reduce spraying herbicides and instead use alternative methods — like pulling weeds out by hand, mulching and putting in weed-suppressive plants.

“When that fails, or when resources do not allow, we spray approved herbicides in complete compliance with New York City, New York State and federal laws,” a Parks spokesperson wrote in an e-mail to this paper.

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