A COVID-19 field hospital in Central Park in New York City has drawn widespread criticism because the group behind it, Samaritan’s Purse, is led by anti-LGBTQ+ evangelist Franklin Graham. On Sunday, a gay protester was arrested for trying to plant a rainbow Pride flag at the field hospital.
William Talen, 69, has worked as a guerrilla theater activist for over 20 years, per NBC OUT. He performs as the character “Reverend Billy” to mock and call out evangelist far-right religious beliefs.
Dressed up in a pink suit and a bandana mask, Talen was escorted away from the hospital by six police officers after putting the Pride flagpole into the ground. “They have no business being in New York City,” Talen shouted as they carried him away. “They are the virus.”
Volunteers at Samaritan’s Purse are required to agree to a Statement of Faith that explicitly condemns same-sex marriage. Franklin Graham has a long history of intensely anti-LGBTQ+ statements, and only “Christian” medical staff are permitted to work at the field hospital, which consists of 68 beds.
Graham previously pledged not to discriminate at the hospital, and Mayor Bill de Blasio also promised to keep an eye on the situation.
Talen is now facing charges for resisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration, criminal trespass, and disorderly conduct. He “jumped over the outer perimeter barrier of the Samaritan’s Purse Field Hospital, a prohibited area” and was “instructed to leave,” a spokesperson for the New York City Police Department told NBC. Talen refused to leave, instead planting a flagpole into the ground to fly the Pride flag.
Today I tried to deliver a rainbow flag to the Samaritans Purse field hospital in Central Park. Franklin Graham and his Lords Army are here with their homophobic racist hustle. Help not hate. pic.twitter.com/zTK8mLmmbe
— Reverend Billy Talen (@revbillytalen) April 6, 2020
The activist shared a video of the arrest to Twitter, writing, “Today I tried to deliver a rainbow flag to the Samaritans Purse field hospital in Central Park. Franklin Graham and his Lords Army are here with their homophobic racist hustle. Help not hate.”