They were anonymous, and while they weren’t exactly legion, as promised here, they were an enthusiastic bunch at Sunday’s Scientology protest in Dallas. Between 60 and 70 protesters (at a guess, average age about 19) lined the sidewalk on the west side of Buckner Boulevard across from the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre, starting at exactly 11 a.m.
Wearing Guy Fawkes masks (suggested by protest organizers due to the church’s tendency to be, let’s say, troublesome to its critics), the marchers carried signs saying “Honk if you hate Scientology” and “Scientology Kills.” With police watching from squad cars parked in front of the Celeb Centre, along with one security guard hired by the church, nobody tried to rumble with the Rondroids. A few Scientologists could be seen maintaining constant camera surveillance on the protesters from some bushes and from the driveway of the church’s property. See for yourself, as Unfair Park shot video just for our Friends,
The Dallas protest was part of a worldwide effort to put the controversial church on notice. This video by “Anonymous” started the Internet-based movement about two weeks ago. That followed the release on YouTube last month of the secret Tom Cruise video, in which the actor babbles streams of Scientologisms about “KSW” (Keep Scientology Working) and “SP’s” (suppressive persons).
The church tried to claim copyright infringement to get the video pulled from YouTube, Gawker.com and other sites. But the Internet prevailed, as spoofs and clones of the footage took it out of the church’s grasp. On TV, Conan O’Brien, Craig Ferguson and others got loads of comedy mileage out of it.
Through YouTube, Internet Relay Chats and sites such as 4Chan.org, word got around about the February 10 event. The date commemorated the birthday of Lisa McPherson, who joined Scientology in Dallas, tried to leave the church and ended up dead under mysterious circumstances in a church-owned hotel near their headquarters in Clearwater, Florida. Many of Sunday’s protesters said they had been motivated to march by this eerie video about the McPherson case.
Similar protests went on in Sydney, Tokyo (where reportedly just one guy showed up), London and New York. Other Texas protests were planned at Scientology centers in Austin, San Antonio and Houston. The next public action is planned for sometime next month, possibly March 13, the birthday of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
Many in the Dallas group were high school and college students who said this was the first time they’d ever protested anything. Politically, there were a fair number of Huckabee and McCain supporters in their ranks (I asked). One college kid, sipping from a juice pouch, said he’d voted for Bush “in the 2008 election.”
A recent SMU grad who stopped briefly at the protest site said she’d recently participated in a Dallas Peace Center demonstration against human rights abuses at Guantanamo. “There were a few young people there, but not many. I wish they’d been half this organized,” she said, looking at the kids lining the sidewalk on Buckner. “This gives me hope that this generation can care about something.”
The Dallas protest was not against Scientology as a religion, said organizer “ProBo,” a 16-year-old Rockwall high-schooler. It’s the church’s greed that’s under fire, he said. Scientologists must pay to take the instructional courses and personal “auditing” required by the church to learn its practices and doctrines.
Asked for comment, two Scientologists outside the Celeb Centre who wouldn’t identify themselves (but asked me for ID) referred all inquiries to a PR person in Austin. They handed out copies of a two-page press release declaring that the protesters were part of a group of “cyber-terrorists who hide their identities behind masks and computer anonymity” and are “perpetrating religious hate-crimes … for no reason other than religious bigotry.”
The kids on Buckner Boulevard Sunday didn’t act much like terrorists. “I can only stay two more hours,” said one as he munched a cookie through his mask. “I have a lot of homework.” --Elaine Liner