Wikinews international report: "Anonymous" holds anti-Scientology protests worldwide

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Internet group 'Anonymous' held protests outside Scientology centers in cities around the world on Sunday.
Image: David Shankbone.
Video report from Boston

The Internet group Project Chanology today held protests critical of the Church of Scientology. The protests marked what would have been the 49th birthday of Lisa McPherson, who is claimed to be a victim of the Church of Scientology's practices. Lisa died in 1995 during a running of what Scientologists refer to as an Introspection Rundown, a procedure intended to help Church members deal with a psychotic or deeply traumatic event.

Protests were planned throughout the day in 14 countries and over 50 different cities. The estimation of total protesters world wide for Feb. 10, 2008 is 9,250 people.

Wikinews had correspondents at a number of protest locations to report on the events. This article was updated throughout the day with reports from around the globe.

Location Reports

About 150 anonymous protesters turned out in Adelaide to protest the Church of Scientology. Most wore masks, many also wearing suits or wigs. A on-the-spot-word was created centered around a Scientologist present at the start of the protests. 'Infiltrator', AdelRAID also had an Anon attacked by a Scientologist trying to remove an Anon's mask to take a photo of his face, who had his picture taken before and after the attack by many anons.

200+ members of Anonymous gathered in Atlanta. While riot police were called to the scene as well as the local media, only one incident occurred. A person from the Anonymous crowd tried to enter the church to talk to them but police temporarily detained him. He was later released without charges.

Image: Tim Dorr.

Correspondent: Craig Russell

Correspondent: TUFKAAP

Video report from Boston

Protesters in Boston covered all four corners of the block surrounding the Church with 30-45 people on each side of the streets and corners. Most protesters ranged from 18 to 25 years old. Crowds soon swelled to numbers of about 250. The weather was of typical New England weather, where it quickly jumped from sunny weather at the start to slight drizzling rain then to a downpour and eventually a flurry that lasted about 15–20 minutes before dissipating. However, even that did not drive the protesters away.

The protesters' meet up spot was Trinity Church in Boston's famed Copley Square right under the gaze of the John Hancock Building. After congregating protesters proceeded down to the local Scientology church and began their picket. An ex-Scientology member know as Larry Brennan showed up and said he applauded what "Anonymous" was doing. Meanwhile, a camera watched the protest from the top floor of the Scientology church looking at the protesters gathered below.

Throughout the protest, each corner took turns shouting this chant "Religion! Should! Be! Free!" At the same time, cars honked in support for the protesters, including firemen of the Boston Fire Department and the Boston Public Works Department road sanding crew, along with various taxis. Drivers were often encouraged to honk by the protesters. Protesters gave pamphlets and leaflets to cars, pedestrians, and police officers.

According to the free daily BostonNOW, Rev. Gerard Renna of the Boston church referred to Anonymous as "a group of cyber-terrorists ... perpetrating religious hate crimes."

It is estimated that 200-250 people attended in total.

Correspondent: Brian McNeil

The Brussels protest organisers decided to take things one step further than the "mask" dress code - and introduce a formal dress code of "Black, and Red Tie".

Saturday saw the start of press coverage for the event with Dutch-language national paper De Morgen devoting four columns in their reporter section to the protest and events that led up to it. Lisa McPherson, Tom Cruise, and John Sweeney were all covered along with images of the "Anonymous" advertising poster and the European Church of Scientology HQ in the Brussels city centre.

The protesters met up at Parc Royal metro station about 1 km away from the European H.Q. of the Church of Scientology and spent approximately an hour putting finishing touches to placards and cutting up leaflets, all under the watchful eye of a number of suspected Scientology "spies" equipped with cameras and cellphones. Following closely the advice from police the group of approximately 30 marched to 91 Wetstraat where the Church H.Q. is in a subdued manner with banners and placards turned down. As the group marched to their point where a static protest was permitted three film crews from Belgian TV ran round filming the group and walking backwards to interview those who were prepared to speak to the press. Protesters came from as far afield as Luxembourg.

The police presence for the protest was fairly light, upon arrival at the protest site, 91 Wetstraat (Rue De La Loi) one van and three officers were parked outside the Scientology HQ, approximately 15 minutes later two other police cars had turned up - delivering the Brussels Central chief of police and another four officers to monitor the protest. Instructions were given to protesters that they could not, under Belgian law, conceal their faces with masks, scarves or veils.

The signs in use by the protesters included a large "HONK!" which whenever a passing motorist hit the horn roused a large cheer from the crowd. Others read "Scientology kills", "Religion is free, Scientology is not", "XENU.NET", "All your Thetans are belong to us", "Hello Scientology, We are Anonymous", and "Alien souls inhabit you". Some were crudely done handwriting, others had been made at the pre-protest meeting with stencils and spray paint.

A chant was started early on, and repeated a few times throughout the day, "Brainwash! Brainwash! Brainwash!", this could likely be heard by people within the Church H.Q. as a number of upper floor windows were open.

Leaflets were handed out to passers by and motorists as they stopped at the nearest set of traffic lights. While highlighting that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam will freely give you details about their religion Scientology was starkly contrasted as "Ask a Scientologist about their texts, You will be answered. After your check clears".

The protest went off with no problems, although concern was expressed by some participants that they were not better allowed to conceal their identities. This was made extra concerning with the belief that some of those taking photos from a distance were members of the Church cataloguing the protesters.

Correspondent: DragonFire1024

Church photographing a Wikinews freelance journalist.
Image: Jason Safoutin.

As many as 50 people turned up to protest the Church in cold weather and wind driven snow. With temperatures ranging from 10 to just 15 degrees Fahrenheit and winds at nearly 45 miles an hour, protesters held signs and braved Mother Nature. Some lost their signs in the wind a few times, but managed to swipe them back up before they got lost in the weather.

Among the protesters attending was Chuck Beatty, a former Scientologist of 27 years from the Sea Org in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Several passing cars showed their support by honking, including a big red semi-truck tow truck.

The police were on scene to make sure protesters followed laws, but they were off duty officers hired by the Church because they "needed protection from Anonymous," said O. Casillas of the Buffalo police Department. Casillas also stated that protesters, "according to New York state law", had to be at least 100 feet from the Church, but because of a fence, protesters were allowed to picket across the street from the Church.

Casillas also took a flier with the rules and regulations for protesters stating, "I cannot take sides here, but the Church privately hired us."

At least three members of the Church were seen photographing, videotaping, and counting anyone who was gathered outside the Church. The protesters were not approached by any members of the Church.

Wikinews attempted to get a statement from the church, but Casillas stated that "the Church knew what organization [I] was from" and that "Wikinews was not welcome there [at the Church]."

Wikinews recently published several stories and interviews that do not favor the Church and the officer's quotes suggest the Church is aware of those articles.

See a gallery of images below, and or click on the 'Buffalo Photo Gallery' to see all the images.

The Chicago protest against the Church began slightly before 11:00 a.m. (central time) and concluded at roughly 4:30 p.m.. Upwards of 70 protesters gathered in support of the protest.

Though temperatures remained in the sub-zero range throughout the day (0 degrees Fahrenheit, -22 wind chill), spirits remained high.

Participants handed out literature and held signs at the intersection of Lincoln, Wellington and Southport until roughly 2:00 p.m.. During that time, a nearby Catholic church dismissed, and numerous Church-goers welcomed the fliers.

Protesters garnered a multitude of honks from supportive motorists. After 2:00 p.m., the large group splintered into multiple travelling squads which navigated the Lakeview and Lincoln Park neighbourhoods until 4:30 p.m..

Protesters had to follow legal restrictions and the Church conducted the Centre's counter-protest measures, such as blocking their windows and holding service from 11:00 a.m. straight through 6:00 p.m..

Approximately 200 people protested Scientology along Cleveland Street in Clearwater. They were photographed by 20-year-old Scientologist David Pendery, who seemed to believe that it was "unlawful to wear a mask and I wanted to document it." The Church also hired ten police officers to monitor the protest.

The protest was delayed by 30 minutes so the protesters would not interrupt a Presbyterian Church service. [4]

More than 100 people picketed on a street corner in front of the Dallas Church of Scientology. Protestors held up signs with pictures of Lisa McPherson, who was a Dallas native. "We want people to know we are raising awareness, and that is one of our main tools to fight Scientology," said one masked protestor. A few signs read "Honk if you hate Scientology", and some cars could be heard honking their horns as they passed by. Police were on the scene to ensure that the demonstration was peaceful. The Dallas Church of Scientology released a statement regarding the group Anonymous, which read, "Using Scientology's prominence, Anonymous hopes to garner more attention ... Religious bigotry of any nature is deplorable and profoundly affects the entire community."

Video from the event

Around 50 to 140 people turned up at the Church of Scientology centre in Edinburgh to protest. As protesters were not allowed directly opposite the centre a small police presence was visible in order to control the crowd.

Banners with "Scientology Kills" were placed at the front of the protesters and chants gradually began to start as the day progressed. Leaflets were handed out to members of the public passing by while people within the Church of Scientology were seen to be taking photographs from inside the church.

Access to the church was restricted during the protest, but several protesters made comment to a reporter from the Scotsman newspaper.

The Houston protest hosted an estimated 81 people. Between 8 and 12 Houston police officers and staff were on site though, but stood and watched the protesters. There were no reports of significant confrontation, though scientologists and protesters took photographs of each other. A CW 39 cameraman was on site taking footage and conducting interviews. Broadcast television reports of the protest were carried on KHOU CBS 11 and KHCW CW 39 later in the evening.

Correspondents: Skenmy and Adambro

The first London protest took place outside the Church of Scientology HQ in Queen Victoria Street. Upon arrival at 10:30, approximately 50 people were in attendance. This was complemented by a small team of police officers. Members of the Church of Scientology were handing out flyers outside the HQ, with the protesters on the other side of the road. Numerous members of the media, as well as tens of amateur photographers and videographers were in attendance.

By 11:00, the number of protesters had grown to between 300 and 500. A variety of signs were on display, bearing such slogans as "Ron is Gone but the Con goes On" (referring to L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology) and "$cientology Kills" (referring to the claims that the Church of Scientology extorts money from its members). The police responded to this growth in numbers with riot vans, a large number of Community Support officers, and Police Horses, as well as a dog unit.

The protest at Queen Victoria Street was peaceful. Members of Anonymous were respectful of Police orders. Inside the building, security officers could be seen. Members were seen videoing and photographing the protests from the upper windows of the HQ building, prompting responses from the crowd. Signs were held saying "Honk if you hate Scientology" - causing a cheer from the crowd every time a car used the horn.

The infamous bright yellow "/b/" van was seen driving past early in the protest. At around 1:00 the protesters moved on towards Tottenham Court Road's "Dianetics and Scientology Life Improvement Centre", where the police presence was even higher, and crowd barriers were set up. Half of Tottenham Court Road was closed for the demonstration, so a single-file line of traffic was all that flowed between the protesters (of which a significant majority of the original number turned up) and the Church of Scientology building.

Members of the Church of Scientology were handing out flyers, much like at Queen Victoria Street. However, the crowd this time shouted for passers-by to "tear it up" - some of whom did. Police reacted to those tearing up the material and throwing it down with the issue of a littering ticket. This road was much busier than the previous one, and a large crowd gathered to look. The crowd could be heard shouting "It's a trap!" when members of the public were offered free Stress Tests by the members of the Church of Scientology. There were a number of minor incidents involving protesters (who were quickly distanced by the majority crowd), but no major violations took place.

Estimates by Anonymous for the total numbers at the event range from 300 to 800 people, however the BBC and City of London Police report 200 people at the event.

Correspondent: IlyaHaykinson

At least 250 people attended the anti-Scientology protest in Los Angeles, California. The protesters gathered in the morning at a central location and proceeded by subway to the site of the first protest, the Church of Scientology - Los Angeles. For nearly two hours the protesters chanted "We are Anonymous" and other slogans, and responded with yells and upheaval to honking cars that were passing by. The protest spread over two city blocks, and at one point the entire group of protesters circled the city block containing various Scientology buildings.

The protest then proceeded via subway to the Church of Scientology International building in Hollywood. There the protesters continued chanting, and marched up and down the street. A group of protesters unfurled a banner in sympathy with the death of Lisa McPherson, and the crowd sang the happy birthday song for her.

The protest continued for an additional couple of hours as the crowd moved to a former Scientology recruiting building and then to the street level of a major mall and tourist attraction, Hollywood & Highland.

After losing quite a few members the protest moved on to the front of the CNN building in hope of getting on news.

Security was high at all Scientology installations, with security officers blocking all entrances to Church buildings, patrolling on foot and bicycle, and most taking pictures or videos of protesters (or even the Wikinews reporter). No police intervention was observed, though at least one or two officers were present at most times.

Correspondent: Fallen-Griever

A protest in Manchester took place outside the Church of Scientology centre located on Deansgate, with around 100 people protesting at its peak. The protest was peaceful, with the protesters mainly sticking to waving banners and handing out flyers to passers-by.

Protesters respected a request from the police that they should leave the area by 3pm in order to avoid blocking the area for patrons leaving the multiple bars along Deansgate at the end of the Manchester Derby (a football match between Manchester United and Manchester City).

There was a minimal police presence at the event and the Church of Scientology centre was closed by the end of the protest.

In a video posted on YouTube, at least 75 to 100 protesters can be heard chanting "Xenu, Xenu, Xenu" as they protest across the street from the Church. Cars driving by honk their horns in support of the protesters. Police can be seen parked in front of the Church.

Correspondent(s): Observer

Updates as of 11:54 AM Anonymous members arrived at about 11:00 A.M. About 50 members were counted with more arriving, despite temperatures with wind chill as low as -40F.

Correspondent(s): Observer

In temperatures ranging from 0F to -4F, without windchill, several members of Anonymous showed up. The group ranged from 10 to 25+, with public response mostly positive.

The Scientology protest in New Orleans took place at 11:00am CST. There were 19 members of Anonymous that showed up to protest. Everything went smoothly. One police officer stopped by just to make sure that the crowd was demonstrating peacefully. Many pictures and video was taken by the assembled group as well as pictures being taken by the few Scientologists that showed up. One large woman drove incredibly fast to park behind the Scientology building at one point (the church was closed before some protesters arrived) and nearly hit two protesters. She was later spotted snapping countless pictures from the second floor. Over the course of the protests, about 5 cars ended up parked behind the building. One bald man came out to attempt to harass some protesters and was labeled a "Level 12 Paladin". He left soon after.

Eventually the two most interesting subjects of the Church of Scientology appeared, and were initially perceived as standard passerby's. When offered fliers the couple spat "What have you done?" and "What are your crimes?" at the protesters. One donned a Scientology vest and stood in front of the building, while his minion walked around taking pictures 5 inches from their faces.

There was some sparse foot traffic in the area and handouts were given to people passing by. A woman stopped by to talk to some Anonymous and stated that she had a family member who was trying to leave the CoS and was glad for the protests. A man in a truck parked and got some fliers, promising to return. About an hour later he arrived, wearing sunglasses and armed with a homemade sign, and joined the group.

An employee of the local newspaper, The Times Picayune, stopped to speak with Anonymous for a little while. He stated that he was in the area on another story but was interested in finding out information about the protest. The Anonymous answered his questions, gave him handouts, but refused to share any personal contact information with him.

Near the end of the protest the two Scientologists decided to walk off.

Correspondent(s): David Shankbone

An estimated 150 people separated into two primary groups protested the Church of Scientology in Philadelphia. Protests began in the area surrounding City Hall, eventually culminating around the Church located on Race Street.

Pedestrian foot traffic was high due to a major event at the Convention Center.

A police officer on the scene described the gathering as "the friendliest [protesters] I've ever seen."

Correspondent: Bjweeks

Approximately 60 people showed up to protest in front of the Scientology church in Phoenix, many wearing purple latex gloves and dressed in black suits. Three Phoenix Police Department officers were present to keep control. CBS 5, Fox 10, NBC 12, The Arizona Republic and The East Valley Tribune came to interview the protesters and The Church of Scientology held a press conference where the official press release was read and no comments were made about the Phoenix protest. The protesters read high level Scientology teaching that had been made public to Scientologists during the press conference and later in the day, with little visible success.

Correspondent: Dar-Ape

Several dozen protesters arrived across the street from the Scientology bookstore in South Side to protest, carrying signs and handing out flyers. Protesters included many students, mostly hailing from Pitt and CMU. Cars honked in support, though pedestrian traffic was a bit more sparse. Two or three police officers kept an eye on protesters from inside the bookstore, but everything went smoothly.

As the high for the day was twenty degrees and with wind chill making it feel as though the temperatures were in the sub zeros; the anons cut their protest to only about four hours.

One Pittsburgh Anon's Photos

Images were emailed to Wikinews.

The protest in Portland seemed to have had a leader (or leader-like figure) or two, and was lawful and very well organized.

There was always yelling, sometimes intense, whenever someone entered the church. Some who entered did so smiling defiantly, some were hesitant and looked noticeably distressed.

Loud cheering erupted every time a passing by car honked (estimated 1 out of 5), this included even a Trimet bus.

A panorama of the protest one side of the street. There is a little more on the other side, where the church is.

8 people showed up and picketed in front of City Hall on the 2/10/2008. The reason why City Hall and not the traditional Church of Scientology is because San Antonio does not have a Scientology chapter. This being the reason many of the protesters of San Antonio went to Austin to support their cause. The protesters handed out fliers and held up informational posters and a "honk if you hate Scientology" poster. Many of the cars honked including but not limited to the Via bus system, SAPD, SAFD, and churchgoers.

San Antonio Videos: [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]

San Diego drew about 80 protesters, starting an hour later than most of the other worldwide protests. The group started at the Horton Plaza shopping mall, and then moved on to the Church of Scientology building. After demonstrating there, the group moved back to the shopping mall, positioning itself on eight street corners, handing out information, flyers, and speaking with concerned bystanders. Not one, but two protesters dressed up as Xenu.

When 10 News showed up to cover the event, they refused to do an interview unless they could speak with a protester face to face. When none of the protesters agreed to this condition, a compromise was reached. A protester gave an audio interview for the station to use when putting together information about the protest.

After several protesters left, the protest moved back to the Church. Police presence was constant, but at the time of dispersal at the end of the protest several members reported being followed by Scientologists.

San Diego Videos:

More pics

A worldwide day of protests against the Church of Scientology has begun in Sydney after an agglomeration of protesters at 11am in Hyde Park. A crowd of about 200 turned out to protest against the Church and its alleged violations of human rights. The group Anonymous, who organized the rally, were handing out fliers to passers-by, and led various anti-Scientology chants by the crowd. The principal allegations made at the rally towards Scientology were the lack of freedom within the Church, and the excessive cost of their courses, which they believe doesn't warrant tax-exempt status. The Protest lasted until 1pm at the Church of Scientology Office in Town Hall and from there partially disbanded. The remaining protesters proceeded to the Scientology office in Broadway and started a lesser secondary protest lasting about 25 minutes. The Church of Scientology was approached by the author for a response to the claims after the rally, but the church refused to comment.

The Toronto protest kicked off at 11:30 a.m. (EST). At least 300 attended the protest for the afternoon. Despite the wind chill of -22 at 11:00 and declining temperatures throughout the day, the protest was still robust at 2:00. The crowd later tapered down to fewer than 10 by 6:00 p.m..

One protester possessed a cap gun, however other protesters in his vicinity quickly pointed him out to the police, who confiscated it without charge.

A Church member was seen throwing rock salt at some protesters for a short period of time, but later went back into the Church.

Generally, the protest was peaceful and picketers were well behaved overall. Police allowed protesters to stand right outside the Scientology building. There were many people attempting to record the event with cameras, video cameras, and/or microphones, and several picketers were interviewed.

The chants sometimes included "Xenu!", which left some passersby confused about whether the protest was for or against Scientology. However, the public was generally receptive to the protesters' message, particularly earlier in the day. Many cars passing by, especially taxis, honked in support, as did a fire truck and an ambulance. Most people offered flyers during the first couple of hours took them, though later on people seemed to grow tired of them. It was an enthusiastic, successful protest.

Over 200 people showed up and passed out pamphlets, chanted slogans, and covered the entire block at one point. Scientologists tried to counter-protest by unfurling a "Scientology For Peace" banner at one point, but protesters with signs blocked the banner from view. After 30 minutes, the Church took down their banner.

People from all over the area came to support the protest. Vancouver Police sent a single cruiser on scene to monitor the situation, but after an hour it left without incident.

Another moment that should be noted is how after the crowd of protesters swelled from 20-200 participants within an hour, A van pulled up in the rear of the building where no protester was then present. Some people took notice and went down to investigate. What they saw was a number of church members piling boxes of documents and entire filing cabinets into the van. They then soon drove off with it. There were pictures taken of the van. It was as if they anticipated a break-in to their office where demonstrators could've seize documentation.

Church members, some in plain clothes and some wearing Church uniforms, videotaped protesters, tried to mingle with the protesters to disrupt the protest from within, and followed protesters away from the protest when they left.

About 20 people protested in front of the Scientology Center in Capistrangasse in Vienna's 6th district. At 12:30, half an hour after the demonstration started, individuals claiming to be acting on government authority ordered the protest to disperse. Owing to an issue concerning documentation the protestors decided to abandon the protest and dispersed peacefully.

At least 30 people showed up to protest the Church in Winnipeg. The temperature in Winnipeg on February 10 was -50 C with the wind chill.

Project Chanology states that people held signs stating, "Scientology destroys families, Why is [Lisa McPherson] dead?" and even "Honk if you think Scientology is a cult."


Although there was no official protest on the internet, thousands of people supported Anonymous by subscribing to the channel on the online video sharing site YouTube, where the numbers for the channel have doubled in 24 hours, making it the most subscribed channel on YouTube this month. However, there have also been a few comments against the protests and "Anonymous" in the comments section of the channel.

Other locations

The protests were not confined to the above locations, however. Below is a selection of stories from other protests around the world.

Stories from other locations

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons has media about 2008 "Anonymous" anti-Scientology protests.


This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
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Wikipedia Learn more about Project Chanology and Project Chanology protests, February 10 2008 on Wikipedia.