The picket today of the "Church" of Scientology in Tottenham Court Road was marvellous. I was picketing from 13:00 to 15:40 (I stopped early to watch the Grand National that never was).
I don't like to shove the leaflets into people's hands if they don't really want them so I just held the leaflets out. People actually came up and took them out of my hand! They were congratulating me on doing such a good job. I made it very clear that I was "Picketing against the cult/church of Scientology - Stop Scientology ruining lives" by shouting it loudly. I had about 260 leaflets. All of them were gratefully received.
The mood in the UK has really changed. Scientology was tolerated in 1995 and 1996 but not any more. The press and television are quite hostile towards them now. They are hated by the public.
While I was there a policeman turned up. He seemed to be quite happy with my shouting. Even he came up to me and took a leaflet and read it.
There was a good turn-out of picketers. About 15 I think. The Co$ put their own leaflet distributors out as well. Some people spotted the switch though and some people gave their Co$ literature to me to dispose of and took my leaflet.
Dave Bird was making a fine old racket with his megaphone chanting "Woof, woof, glug, glug. Who drowned the judges dog?" and singing his Lisa McPherson song. He had Duke the dog with him - a dog on wheels wearing water-wings.
They got round some thinking scienos to talk with me. (Some scienos can think but only if they were in scientology in the early days, like 25 years ago or more). The scienos were genuinely surprised about what I said about Lisa McPherson and Xemu with the DC8s. They did not believe it.
I told the London org OSA man, Jacques Vollet, that I was only picketing because Flag and the Flagship owed me money (which they do. A lot of it). I am sure he can get it back for me. He can now blame the entire picket on Flag not following policy. It's a good way of shifting trouble away from the London org.
We didn't have a Xemu there but we didn't need one really. The public liked us.
All the shouting had made me very thirsty. We all piled in the Finnegan's Wake bar afterwards where I was able to slake my thirst (several times and very thoroughly).
A good time was had by all. Even Jacques Vollet sat with us and talked.
Bonnie Woods is currently suing the Church of Scientology here in the UK, seeking, amongst other things, an injunction against them to prevent "fair game" tactics. A long while back I reported on this newsgroup how her house was picketed and her family intimidated by a group of Scientologists in East Grinstead. At the surprise picket earlier this month, I saw first-hand why that injunction is needed.
The picket I'm talking about is the first of the two: 18 picketers protested outside the Tottenham Court Road org in London on the 5th. We passed out nearly 2000 leaflets and got a truly impressive amount of support from the passing public. For pictures, see
Steve, Jens and Dave, who have already given their accounts of the picket, were right outside the org. I was on the other side of the wide road, as were Bonnie and her husband Richard. There was a smartly dressed scottish man on our side of the road for most of the picket.
Goings-on on this side of the road were very cordial for the first hour, but eventually two rather unpleasant and rough-looking men came over to Bonnie. They went right up to her and started making accusations, asking her how many families she was breaking up (Bonnie is an exit counsellor and has helped many people get out of the cult). They didn't touch her at any point, but they got very close: definitely what I would call physical intimidation, especially given that Bonnie is just a little lady. (She's only little physically of course: obviously she's a huge and painful thorn in the side of the cult).
Richard and three friends formed a ring around Bonnie to stop the goons getting too close. Richard is a builder, thank goodness; anyone even slightly less macho would not have been able to handle the situation with as well as he did.
For a while I just stood there with my wad of leaflets, looking on in dismay. Then I remembered (duh!) the dictaphone that I had in my bag. After an agonising few seconds of trying to tear off the plastic wrapping around a blank tape, I joined in the circle around Bonnie and held up the dictaphone.
Here's what I have on the tape:
[The smart scottish guy has come over to us as well.]
Scottish Scientologist: Do not threaten. Do not threaten. It's not worthwhile. You can't even do anything yourself. All I can say is, that we believe in the law, and I certainly do. I do not believe in threatening anybody, and I don't want to be threatened. I think that's fair.
[This strikes me as a very odd way to react to someone who is simply
holding a microphone in front of you. He seemed truly scared.]
US: [libellous accusation snipped] [he notices me] In your tape recorder you can record whatever you want.
Richard Woods: What is your name?
US: Doesn't matter. I'm not talking to you.
RW: Are you Bugs Bunny? He's Mickey Mouse- are you Bugs Bunny? [the other unpleasant guy had given Mickey Mouse as his name]
RW: If you don't stop, I'll arrest you too.
OS: If you don't stop, I'll arrest you.
RW: No no, if you don't stop, I'll arrest you, OK? What is your name?
OS: I want to speak to Bonnie..
RW: What is your name?
OS: Mickey Mouse...er.. Donald Duck
SS: Will you please stop!
RW: Tell him to stop.
US(to Bonnie and ?): Will you two please stop knock off [libellous allegation snipped]?
SS: Just stop! All you've got to do is just behave like ordinary people; these people here [pointing to passers-by] and that means be quiet... Talk among yourselves, [that's] lovely, but do not threaten people... [To see the absurdity of this, remember that we were on the other side of the street and the three scienos had come over to where we were and were being threatening to us.]
RW: Okay, it seems that you're not in a reality with me, see, what's happening is, he keeps on asking my wife some funny questions and I don't like it, same with this Mickey Mouse [points at other US] boy.
[On the other side of the street, Dave starts his Elvis impersonation through his megaphone.]
RW: What is happening is, I've had to arrest him. If
he keeps on doing that, I've got to arrest him, you see. That's the
problem. So the problem here is, you stop
him and I'll stop. That's the way it works. Anger is
better than half-dead. That's the way I look at it. Anger is better
SS: [unintelligible] is better than [unintelligible]
RW: So you're on 4.0 and I'm in 2.0. So what?
RW(to one of the goons): Okay I don't want you to go too far because I would hate to have to keep chasing you inside the shop, there.
US: [another libellous allegation]
BW: These are matters for libel. This is being recorded. I have a libel case against your church. I wouldn't say any more if I were you- you're not doing your church any favours. What you are saying is libellous.
US: Well, [unintelligible] observation here.
RW: Be in court and listen to it. It's going to be happening. Be in court and you'll hear it all. It's exciting. I'm excited. Are you excited?
SS: Er... I'm not having sex.
RW: "I'M NOT HAVING SEX??"
[much laughter from nearby SP's]
A little later, RW pulled out a mobile phone, called the police and said he was being harassed by someone "obnoxious, aggressive, unpleasant..." - he gave a whole load of such adjectives while the goons were right in front of him. The goons looked distinctly less comfortable. The police eventually came and tried to mediate a further heated discussion which unfortunately I wasn't able to record.
[Separate incident: Jacques is walking towards Bonnie and Richard, carrying a placard with "Bonnie where's the money?" (to do with another of their libellous allegations). I attempt to interview him. Richard Woods realises that the sign would make handy evidence for Bonnie's libel case and playfully tries to get Jacques to hand it over. Jacques turns around and walks quickly back to the org.]
Martin Poulter: Jacques, why are walking up and down
the street with a sign?
RW: Thank you, Jacques. No, can I have it?
RW(playfully): Let me have it! No, really, I want it! It's mine!
MP: What's the sign for, Jacques?
RW: Jacques, Jacques!
MP: Why are you walking round with a sign, Jacques?
RW: Jacques, let me have the sign!
MP: What's the sign for, Jacques?
JV: Bonnie knows.
[end of tape]
Sorry if the above doesn't make a lot of sense- like all the funniest events, you had to be there.
I had a very pleasant train journey to Poole and we met in the Pub. I always think to myself before a demonstation, "Are you really going to stand in the middle of the street and hand out leaflets?" I am fairly shy and am uncomfortable with the idea of making a public spectacle of myself. Once the demonstrations are started I find that they are not embarrassing expriences. I am heartened by the other people who turn up. We have a seventy year old woman and a variety of age groups and people with different backgrounds. It gives me real hope that we are able to strike back against such a bully of an organisation.
At first we gathered at the wrong end of the street. I was on my way to the initial position when I was stopped by a personality tester. I was so taken by suprise and it was not until she started asking the questions that I realised she was a Scientologist. She asked me is there anything I would like to change about myself, is there anyone I would like to be, and another question that I have forgotten. A friend with a banner passed by and tapped me on the shoulder telling me to hurry up. It was then that it dawned on the Scienotlogist that I might not be raw meat. She asked if I was one of the bunch with the banners and what is it about. I told her I would return in about quarter of an hour. When we all returned to do the demonstration where she had been standing, she had gone.
When we gathered a photographer from the Echo started taking pictures. Dave Bird was on brilliant form and his rap on the megaphone stopped people. They stopped because they were amazed at what was happening in Poole highstreet and what was being said.
OSA took a while to travel down from East Grinstead, they arived at about 3.30. We had began the demo at 2ish. John was in London and told them just after one that the real demo was in Poole. This pissed them off as they had laid on a band for us and brought a chap over from the USA to handle the demonstration.
A couple of OSA chaps spoke to me during the demonstration. I will not answer any questions that are obviously designed to gather information about me. I was asked qustions such as; Which ones Roland? Where have your travelled up from? Have you ever been on course? I refused to answer these questions.
Some time into the demonstration a woman came up to me and said that she would not sign the petition and give her address to that bunch. I looked round and a OSA chap was looking over her shoulder as people were writing their addresses on the petition. I got him involved in a conversation and than broke off. He followed me for the next five minutes like he was my shadow. I walked round and round and so did the Scientologst. He forgot what he had previously been doing and went and stood somewhere else.
Lots of people took leaflets. Some said thank god someones doing somethng. Others said, I was involved and they took all my money. One said his son had been involved and they had taken all his money. The OSA chap who I couldn't get rid of asked who is your son. I had to tell the chap not to say anymore to me and walked off.
Down the road at about 4.30 there was a fight. I spotted a large man punch a Scientologist and push him on the ground. I ran over and asked if he was OK. He said that an animal had attacked him. I said that I was sorry as we were not trying to incite hatred. The Scientologist replied that he knew this and was OK.
From what I gathered the chap had a friend that they were trying to recruit and he was angry about this.
One of the heads of OSA was at the demonstration. She has stated that a litigant and major SP in the UK should be 'handled terminantly', I guess this means killed.
Some of the recruiters came out and started trying to intimidate an ex - member. One than came over to me to have a chat. She was an extremely actractive girl and I can see that having recruiters like that is an advantage for Scientology. I know that Bret Parker who stole money to pay for Scientology courses and got put in a army jail as a result was recruited by an actractive Scienotlogist who he thought he was chatting up. This girl came over and asked what I was demonstrating about. She kept doing all this touchy hand stuff which I felt a bit uneasy about.
I started at the top of the leaflet and than the second paragraph. She said that the second paragraph was incorrect and that Richard Collins had not committed suicide after receiving a Scienotology course. As she desputed this I went onto the second paragraph which described what happened to Lisa McPherson. This really did compute, she did not let me finish the sentance and she got stuck on the question, "Where do you get your information from?" Every time I tried to say the paragraph she interrupted. Then her friend came over and also started asking questions. I said to her, "Your only here to keep an eye on your mate." She asked the question, "Have you ever been on course?" I answered that I would not answer personal questions. At the same time I was a being asked the previous question. Than the girl who seemed to be senior to the other one said, "He won't tell us because he has never been on course," and they walked off.
It is sad the way in which the communication isn't there with Scientologists. I wish there was a way round this brainwashing thing.
Anyway, we got rid of all the leaflets and got 150 signatures in two hours, so it was a complete success. I hear that the Scientologists in Poole are in a real flap because of the demo. Good.
We aim ideally to have something happening most weeks, large or small, this town or that town, with different groups of people.
Sat 18th picket in London was two men and a dog. Some things went well, some failed. The megaphone has a fault. We were to meet another London contact, but that will be separately in a few days time. We got to site about half an our late, 1:30 rather than 1pm.
This was not a fixed picket. There are rules about (a) picketing a fixed site or holding large parades, and (b) selling stuff. There are no rules to stop you wandering slowly down the street, leafletting, canvassing, singing or whatever else you usually do on the street, without prior notice to police.
We came out of Goodge St tube, and turned right towards the Org trailing Duke on his lead. We wandered slowly past the org with a loud chant of "woof woof glug glug, who drowned the judge's dog, scientology church of dogdrowners," etc. 'Piltdown Engrams' was just bringing two tpaper cups of coffee in from the caff next door and nearly dropped them when we appeared. Then round the corner to Winegan's Fake for a lunchtime drink. Jacques Vollet appeared al immediately. I asked him if he'd seen Bonnie Woods as (according to Scn) us poor internet lusers aren't capable of organising a picket for ourselves. He wasn't much pleased that we were having a crummy little picket of two people. He's quite lazy, and it means he DOES have to keep wasting his Saturday afternoons coming down to London because something did happen, but at the same time it was only just worth his bother.
So, at 2pm, another very slow walk past the org with Duke singing one chorus of "they're drowning my doggie in the poo-l...I do hope that doggie can swim". We wandered on leafletting and talking to people. There was one very good contact with a woman student who will clue a lot of other locals in. I hoped some shops such as newsagents etc would put a notice up and maybe tell people--- but nearly all the shops are fairly upmarket stuff like furniture and wouldn't really be interested. Roland tried singing a whole song at the little park, but again this didn't work: without the context of the Org, people don't see it's about scientology they just wonder why this guy is singing in the street. We stopped off at a pub halfway up but didn't make much headway, in canvassing terms, there. We were, however, putting out a steady rate of leaflets.
Back down past the Org and a slow march-past with a bit of a chant. Then round past Winegan's Fake and into Goodge Street itself. Much better response here. We stopped off at a pub halfway along, sat outside with Duke and with our cool drinks and..... it was great. We were shifting more leaflets than mobile, just sat at a table in the street taking our dog on a pubcrawl. Duke was superb. he has a true understanding of tone40: to be in absolute control of a situation through perfect serenity. He didn't need to make a loud noise; in fact, I'll swear, he didn't even once open his mouth and bark. He just pointed his wet black nose and gave a pleading look, and the public just came up and begged for leaflets. Most excellent.
About 4:15 we took a leisurely stroll back. An area car swept past along a crossing round and nearly swerved into the pavement, as the cops fell about giggling at the sight of our dog with waterwings. Past the org again, and a quick blast of "woof woof glug glug, who drowned the judge's dog -- scientology drowns yer dog!". Roland, who has an even bigger gob than me, took up chanting "woof woof glug glug, scientology drowns yer dog" repeatedly all the way for a 10 or 15 minute walk up to the victoria line tube at Warren Street. We got a lot of smiles and a lot of response. Tottenham Court Road is like a canyon of five story buildings each side: turn your shout at a glancing angle to the building frontage, and there is a superb 1/2 second reverb comes back at you.
We also met an anti-cult contact who's a friend of Steve Hassan's and said he would be in touch with us.
So, all in all, another nice day out. Two SPs, 200 leaflets in 2 hours, a couple of good personal contacts, lots of good ideas who to build up pressure in the local area. I enjoyed myself thoroughly.