Protest reports from London demo May 3rd

May 1997 protesting. So far only one, but it's early days yet...

John Ritson, report from London May 3rd

Saturday: 3 May - Tottenham Court Road, London

Anti-cult protesters held another of their unannounced (but pre-notified to the police) pickets outside the Tottenham Court Road 'org' this afternoon. Accompanied by 'Duke' the cute little dog with waterwings, picketers arrived at the 'org' and caused the usual total confusion among the clueless clams. The guy on reception made endless phone calls, pleading for help, another clam closed the front door and they went into the usual headless chicken mode. Protesters gave them extracts from the songbook 'The House of the Grasping Clam' etc. Eventually 'higher authority' must have persuaded them that they were being 'non-confront' and they emerged to hand out copies of 'Freedom' (the anti-German issue where the Public Affairs Director talks about the 'Nazi regime of the 1920s and 1930s').

After about 45 minutes, reinforcements had arrived and they felt bolder. Roland Rashleigh-Berry was handing out his Xemu leaflet next to the door of the org when one clam grabbed a dozen leaflets or so, ripped them up and tried to stuff them down Roland's shirt. Roland pushed him away and was then punched repeatedly in the face by the Scientologist. Pictures of his blood-spattered face will soon be appearing on the Net. Unfortunately there were no police present at the time (they had been there soon after the start, called by the Scientologists, and were there after this incident). The incident was notified to the police by Roland, but he decided not to press charges of assault or actual bodily harm. In a case like this with no 'neutral' wuitnesses a magistrate would probably just bind both parties over to keep the peace, or fine them each a few quid (IANAL). Roland and the others were not intimidated by this assault, and the picket continued.

After nearly two hours, the leaflets were distributed, the clams had finally managed to find their 'Fight Crime not Religion' and 'No to Bigots' placards that they had produced on the previous picket (no wonder that one kept muttering 'Downstat'), and the picketers called it a day.

We will return, as will the slightly blood-stained 'Duke'.

Dave Bird, report from London, May 3rd

Yet another unannounced London demo. Roland was already there, with Duke the Dog, when I arrived at the backstrret rendezvous. He has a XEMU leaflet which is excellently laid out, with a colour photograph of the u.s. XEMU on it. Maybe because of the bank holiday there were just six of us and the dog, but six was fine to start with.

We chose to go to the Org without a big noise at first, at about ten past one. I walk in bold as brass. The male clam at the desk is looking down at some papers. I say "could you pass this envelope on to Jacques Vollet please?" (It is the opne letter I posted on ars some time ago -- I have been too lazy to put it in snailmail to the recipient until now). Sure he says. And looks up. "Oh no...". Maybe this is because he sees who it is as I turn to go out, or that it is a picket. But mainly I think it is because he sees I am wearing, each on a ribbon and safety pin, six or eight pingpong balls with a face drawn on: body thaytans.

We kick off with some of the usual stuff, and I get round to "Cult of the Grasping Clams." Martin joins in the chorus next to me, which gives a good feeling though of course you can't hear him over the mic. Then we are told that this is supposed to be an unauthorised picket. A van of cops turns up, who is supposed to be the contact/organiser (me). They say they have no notice, I tell them I have sent a fax and which senior officer I sent it to. They want name, address, phone, demo times and numbers, the usual stuff which would be on the prior notice. I just do it by ear, if they want to say "you can't play today then" well we can live with that. It appears eventually they will make further checks but I am in for standard stiff talking to #1 on Tuesday ("this was technically illegal and if you do it again charges will be brought"). The policewoman how talks to me seems genuinely pleasant and interested in the suicide stuff and I give her a leaflet, though she may also be keeping me talking while another officer does alonger interview with a clam. I don't know how thay ate my fax, but I am happy to say on returning home that my fax logs show it was sent and I snailmailed them the logs. By this time however I am somewhat pissed off.

We kick off again. Since I am not using the megaphone much, I show Roland how to put it on and he does a song or two. I swap it for a big batch of Xemu leaflets. These have a chilling effect on clams who say "I'm not reading that"....prompted by "do you recognise whose handwriting this is": LRH's in the first couple of sentences from OT3. Around this time a mad clam chooses to attack Roland. I see they are talking heatedly by the door of the Org. The clam is age 30ish, about 5'8'', well muscled but running to fat a little, with dull blond hair in a widow's peak, wearing a blue top and trainers. He has the permanent look of a spoilt brat who has just been told its his kid brother's turn to play with the trainset today; or that he is constipated and the cluthing of his sphincter on a hard turd pains him.

As I get there, he takes about a dozen leaflets from Roland and tears them up. I head over to break it up because my name is down as the one who will end up accounting for things if they go wrong. The clam shoves the torn leflets into the neckline of Roland's tee-shirt. Roland pushes him away, and the clam hits Roland in the face twice. I am facing him, and people appear from inside the Org. I say "bring order-- get your man under control, and" (as he tries to come out again) "keep him inside". Afterwards, we reckon the clam was not specifically ordered to do this, but he had been shown photos of Roland and told "this is the evil ringleader to be handled in any way possible"---and therefore that the rest of the org are to blame for inciting, if not directly ordering, an incident like this.

As Roland turns round I see he was hit harder than I thought and is bleeding from the nose. He turns away from the org and starts calling out "this is what you get when you criticise the chuch of scientology: I criticised them, and they did this to me." A couple of spots of blood fall on Duke's back. He decides that the police should be called and, as there is no mobile phone, someone will go to the TCR substation about 30 yards away. Jens and Roland go there, along with Duke and the megaphone which they don't hand over before leaving. So there are now four of us--three when the clams engage someone in conversation--minus our main prop and piece of equipment.

Things now turn to farce as, while they vanish to TCR station, the inspector covering demos turns up from the main Holborn nick and asks for "a word". I bite the bullet and ask, first, are they advising us to end the picket. No, but they want a whole load of other things. No sound equipment. "Nothing offensive" said, and that includes even statements of fact that the other side choose to take offense at. Since I do not have a lawyer hovering at my side, I not really in a position to say "fuck that, I refuse the direction, you arrest me and see whether a court upholds it as reasonable." But it does stick in my throat that the clams are profitting from assaulting people. Ah no, that is a different incident being handled at a different station. The inspector keeps in touch with them, though, and lets us know when our people are about to leave --- processing an incident in under an hour is actually very fast and cooperative.

This is about 14:10, and we carry on the picket as best we can originally for 16:00 but in the end until 15:10, simply to show we are not defeated by their attack on Roland. There is a bit of pointless bullbaiting. Coco (aka the Pencil Necked Geek) tries the usual stuff on me, and asks who is paying me. I say "I will tell you--nobody pays me to picket. And any member of the ordinary public would think you were barking mad to ask such a question." They have a bit of a go at John Ritson, from the British Body Thaytan Society, too: clamspore asks "when will you get your ethics in?" I wonder what an ordinary sane person who has never encountered stupidology would make of this. It is not coherent English. Even when you unpack the jargon it doesn't make sense still. It's about equivalent to "when will you get your walrus tonsured?"

At 15:10 we tell the remaining policeman we are going, and tell the clams "see you in a couple of weeks, chaps." Jacques Vollet is notable by his abscence (perhaps he has gone somewhere for the holiday weekend?).

We head for Winnegan's Fake as usual. Somebody eventually fetches Jens and Roland, who is in quite good spirits. Everybody thinks this will bring more, not less, people to future pickets and make them more determined. We will have to bear in mind that we could be attacked and come prepared e.g. by bunching together and making sure there are minders with anyone who is a particular target or particularly vulnerable (including the women, none of them 5'8'' weightlifters) and equipment or supplies which might be vulnerable.

I am disappointed that Roland won't press charges, because it will encourage the clams to try it again in future if they can knock the heart out of the demo by attacking someone and get awy with it---but perhaps he is right there will be too many perjured clam witnesses and not enough evidence on our side. He wants his picture on the 'Net with a bloody nose, to put some backbone into other people who think this shite cult is harmless. Everyone is determined there will be a larger demo in either two or three weeks time, to show our renewed determination. We did a pubcrawl past the org to another pub further up TCR, and laughed ourselves silly at the copies of Freedumb we'd been given; which were mainly page after page of DeadAgenting Germany, and also a British junior minister who had said a few honest things about Scn.

Martin Poulter, report from London May 3rd

Roland Rashleigh-Berr, a regular contibutor to this newsgroup, was punched repeatedly in the face by a Scientologist outside the Tottenham Court Road org today. The police became involved, but no charges have been pressed, for reasons that will be explained. Roland is all right now, apart from a very swollen lip and a couple of minor cuts. Photographs taken immediately after the incident will be making their way to the 'net in the next few days.

The picket lasted from 1.15 to 3.15 this afternoon, and involved Dave B, Jens T, John R, Pete L and myself -Martin P- in addition to Roland, as well as Duke the toy dog. Due to logistical problems, we lacked placards to announce who we were. We made up for it by shouting "We are protesting against the cult of scientology! Say no to the suicide-inducing cult of scientology!" continuously for pretty much the whole time.

As part of the new UK picketing policy, this picket was unannounced and came as yet another complete surprise to the org. Like previous pickets, it was well-received by the public: many people congratulated us and told us to keep up the good work. We had a variety of different leaflets, including Roland's which explains the Xemu story. One scieno that we talked to refused to even look at that leaflet, although he did glance at it long enough to recognise that the handwriting was L Ron Hubbard's.

At the time we turned up, the org was largely empty. As we started shouting, they went into a panic. After some hurried phoning by the receptionist, a lot of people came out of the org to counter-protest, including some relatively new recruits. They handed out copies of Freedom newspaper and a leaflet to advertise Dianetics. Despite being outnumbered two or three to one, we still had the run of the street, shouting "Say no to the money-grubbing, suicide-inducing cult of Scientology," "Get yer Scientology Secrets here! Get your Total Spiritual Freedom for free!" and of course "Woof Woof! Glug Glug! Who drowned the judge's dog?"

Dave had his megaphone as on previous pickets, and used it to great effect with songs and slogans, and also read aloud the press article about the death of Richard Collins. The scieno's appeared visibly unsettled. Dave was wearing lots of "Body Thetans" that he'd "mocked up": ping-pong balls with little faces drawn onto them.

At what I estimate to be 30 minutes into the picket, Roland was attacked. The scieno, a familiar face from previous London pickets, confronted Roland, who was singing one of the Suppressive Songs right outside the door of the org. He grabbed a wad of Roland's song sheets and tore them up. Roland told him to give them back, and the scieno responded by stuffing the bits of paper down Roland's shirt. Roland pushed back, at which point he was hit rapidly in the face about six times. This does not seem to have been a planned attack- it looks as though the guy just "snapped". We had, after all, ruined his day.

Everybody was stunned, but it did not stop the protest: for a while Roland stood outside the front door of org, shouting "This is what happens to people who criticise Scientology", blood streaming from his nose. As you can probably guess, the scienos were all smiling from ear to ear and none showed the least alarm or sympathy.

The police were called, but Roland declined to press charges, for quite a sensible reason: the scieno was claiming that he had been hit by Roland. Given Scientology's infamous "Training Routine: Lying" it would be no surprise if the org suddenly produced several "witnesses" who "saw" that Roland hit first. The police also warned us not to use provocative slogans, even when they were claims that we could prove (so we could call Scn a "cult" but not a "suicide-inducing cult"). The scienos were warned that they would be taken in if there were any more violence. The situation was complicated by the fact that the police inspector claimed that he had not received the fax notifying him about this particular demo.

Because of the above incident, there is a serious need for a video camera at future pickets. The main use for a camera is as a deterrent from violence like today's, but if such violence does occur, then a tape is evidence which can be used to show who started the attack. If anybody in London or the South of England is reading this, has a video camera and is disgusted by Scientology's tactics, please get in touch with myself, Dave Bird or Steve A. As for the issue of protesters being banned from shouting certain slogans, we will be collectively taking legal advice about whether this is a defensible restriction.

Now for the rest of the picket news:

Two of the scienos came up to me at one point, smiling. One of them asked where he had seen me before. I said that I didn't recognise him, although we might have met. He suggested that he had seen me before at a demo. I replied that I had picketed the London org several times in the past. He said that he meant a National Front demonstration. I congratulated the two guys on being great comedians: I'm often ribbed by my friends about my bovver-boy look since I've shaved my head. This guy insisted that he wasn't joking; that he remembered my face from a National Front demo, to which I replied that he might be suffering from False Memory Syndrome. I got the definite impression that I will be branded a "racist hate-campaigner" or some such thing in a future Scientology publication, or... let me guess... in anonymous leaflets handed to my employers and landlord?

Another scieno used some classic tech on me, saying that I was obviously a really nice person and that, while the other protestors are obviously losers, I am clearly capable of much more. The words "transparent" and "manipulation" leap to mind.

Scientology promotional literature isn't very popular. As I walked away to get back to Bristol, I saw several Freedom newspapers left on the pavement of Tottenham Court Road. Going along Oxford Street, I saw many more Dianetics leaflets. Our leaflets, on the other hand, were not being thrown on the ground or in the bin. During the picket, when I shouted that I was protesting against Scientology, one passer-by took one of my leaflets, gave me the copy of Freedom that he had just been handed, and asked if I could put it in the bin.

In summary, it was a worthwhile day in that we prevented any new personality tests being taken for a couple of hours, and we informed plenty of people about the nature of the cult. Although the mood of the Scieno's here in the UK has been getting especially tense in these last weeks, the escalation to physical violence comes as a worrying shock, and means that we have to think carefully about how we protest in future. This is by no means going to discourage us from our continuing campaign of peaceful protest: in fact we hope that it shows even more people how disgusting this cult really is.
Last modified: Thu May 8 18:22:27 GMT 1997