Brighton is on the coast about an hour south of London on the train from Victoria, via Gatwick Airport which is halfway between the two; it is home of Sussex University and Brighton University [formerly politechnic]. It is a cosmopolitan place closely connected to London, with a high proportion of students and of young people in their twenties, and is known as the most Wired city in Britain --- all of which bodes ill for the clams as we get deeper roots there. The response of the public was that (a) a lower proportion took leaflets or spoke to us than in Poole but (b) those who did were pretty much 100% supportive.
RAILWAY STATION --------------- __ ___________ | | |Queens Road | | Western | | Road / | clock tower _[M]___________/ / \________ __ _____________ c ________ || \ / preston st | |
The bOrg is about ten minutes walk from the station at Mitre House on Western Road (opposite Preston St). The ground floor is a big 80 x 200 ft woolworths-type shop unit, and the clams have the 1st and 2nd above ground floors at the front. There is a heavy door in an archway with lots of doorbells, as evidently there is a whole maze of other offices in there. What we hadn't realised is that a large part of it is also flats, and the tennants of this and neighbouring buildings -- who are constantly perstered to do personality tests -- absolutely loathe the clams.
Present were Dave, Jens, (Roland and John are temporarily away), a new Internet contact, MartinP and the Bristol crew, Richard and Bonnie Woods plus Richard2 and others who have been away crewing the new suppressive command bunkers underneath a psycho-xombie-drug- lordz prozac factory somewhere in the south of England. And, of course, Duke the Dog, kitted out in his snazzy yellow waterwings and all ready for walkies.
We arrived at noon, to move out at 1pm -- at least that's what it said on the press release, but if any press turned up at 1pm they missed us. We had a phonecall that one carload were tied up on the road, and some of the other wnet off in search of a hardware shop for wood and nails to make a couple of placards in case the main supply didn't arrive. So it was probably more like 2pm when we got together and moved out, and then splitting up two ways one lot via the parked car.
The first 3 or 4 of us arrived at Mitre House. One of the Bristol crew saw a clam and went up to him to give him some verbal challenge. The result was instant non-confront and the heavy doors of Mitre House slammed shut. We based ourselves for a while in the shop past MH which was shut for refit, and awaited the others. Things got off to a slow start, with people distributed round the place. We had placards, we had Duke, I had a STOP(\)$cientology tee shirt. Jens was dressed as XEMU and had the head on for a fair while as the weather was cool. Then a local homeless guy called Jason decided to join in, and we had a virtual netweok XEMU with separate front and back ends: Jason wearing the head (and brandishing the raygun waterpistol), with Jens as the body. "I am ZooMoo" he cried -- he never could quite get the name right -- though I had to calm him down when he started aiming the waterpistol at Duke. I mean, a WATERpistol......
I had the megaphone, and belted away with we are demonstrating AGAINST
$cientology, get your information against $cientology here, learn all
their secret stuff, learn about Xemu the space alien. I felt a bit
rusty but after a while let fly with
xemu loves me this I know
high above the volcano
thaytans all to him belong
hubbard's weak but xemu's strong
yes, Xemu loves me -- yes Xemu loves me -- yes Xemu loves me,
my BTs told me so.
After a while I started up on "The ElRonRon": a window shut in the clambed, so I also later gave them a blast of O.T.3 in Rap (its the Xemu rap---Xemu Rap, all the little clams go snapittey snap snap..). I didn't do the songs like They're Drowing my Doggie in the Pool, Cult of the Grasping Clams, or Lisa MacPherson which are aimed mainly at the public but concetrated on enturbulating the clams. A couple of verses into my first go at ElRonRon, I stopped to talk with a very interesting media contact, and a have a number of useful local and media contacts, ideas, etc jotted down in my book from the day. Oh, Richard and Bonnie have their own petition for a governement enquiry, they had 2 or 3 people on petitions and a lot of signatures were got.
So, the clams chickened out, they didn't come out to play; last time they were all over us and probably beleive they did a good job of blocking us. I was on megaphone, the others were scattered in 2s and threes around the place, I saw them talking with passers by a lot of the time. I was quite amused by what one woman in her 20s, pushing a pram, told us. Apparently the body routers don't remember her as the same person -- well, you might not among so many. Every time she comes by without a pram they practically 8C her into the Org. When she comes by with a pram [i.e. lacks spare cash and time for them to seize on] then they ignore her completely.
All in all, a pretty productive day at our second out-of-London location, and Duke-the-Dog enjoyed it too.
__ .' '. "OUR GRAND DAY OUT" : : | _ _ | cracking clams, grommit! .-.|(o)(o)|.-. _._ _._ -- -------( ( | .--. | ) )-----.',_ '.------.' _,'.----------- '-/ ( ) \-' / /' `\ \ __ / /' `\ \ / '--' \ /.' \.' './ '.\ \ `"===="` / ` : _ _ : ` `\ /' |(o)(o)| `\ /' | | http://www. /`-.-`\_ / \ xemu.demon.co.uk _..:;\._/V\_./:;.._ / .--. \ .'/;:;:;\ /^\ /:;:;:\'. | ( ) | / /;:;:;:;\| |/:;:;:;:\ \ _\ '--' /__ _____/ /;:;:;:;:;\_/:;:;:;:;:\ \_.' '-.__.-' `-.__art_by_jgs.
There were ten people in attendance, plus the homeless guy who handed out leaflets for us. This number of attenders allowed our protest to cover both sides of the street at the spot where Scientology recruiters usually work. Three different kinds of anti-Scientology t-shirt were being worn(!) and six placards were in use.
We experienced a greater level of indifference than we have at our other picketing locations (London and Poole), but it was clear that some people are *really* fed up of Scientology's aggressive selling. Many were keen to sign a petition calling for a government investigation into the cult's activities.
It was the first picket of Scientology in this country at which there was almost no interference from the Scientologists themselves. At previous events, we have been shouted at, called "criminals", physically intimidated, extensively filmed and photographed and (in one case in London) even punched in the face. Since we were only a short journey from the cult's former world headquarters in East Grinstead, we were prepared for an especially large number of scientologist counter-protestors. Instead, we were merely photographed by one brown-suited member of OSA (Scientology's intelligence agency). This lack of interference deprived us of the opportunity to converse with the Scientologists themselves, but gave us more time to talk with the public.
Not protesting as such, but present at the event, were Scientology's top enemies in this country, Bonnie and Richard Woods. It was a pleasure to talk to them and hear about the progress of their libel case against the cult. I don't think I can pass on any of what I heard, but I think I can say that their confidence in a favourable outcome to the case is on the increase, and justifiably so.
As I have said, the distinctive feature of this protest was the lack of response. The big event happening at East Grinstead only partly explains it. Perhaps the Scientologists in Brighton have decided to tidy up their act: perhaps our conversation with the low-level members last time was so disastrous for their membership that they dared not risk it this time: perhaps the presence of Bonnie (of whom they are obviously very scared) made a difference. The only way to find out is to do more pickets.
I have a few remarks about tactics. Although I would say that what we did was definitely worthwhile and effective, there are a few respects in which we could have done better.
On this same point, I was dubious about the use of parody songs. I really enjoy reading the parody songs on a.r.s, and singing bits of them in the company of other Scientology opponents, but I'm more and more convinced that they don't do any good in a public protest. Part of the problem was that the bullhorn makes any singing at best semi-intelligible. Another is that the jokes are completely lost on people who don't know the first thing about Scientology. What the songs *do* achieve is annoying the Scientologists, but that's not the point of the picket. We were certainly attracting their attention of the public, which is obviously a crucial first step, but not always getting a *message* across.
I look forward to more pickets in Brighton and elsewhere.
After the usual initial confusion, we arrived at the shop around 2 pm. We set up shop on the sidewalk next to their door, and let rip. I was wearing the Xemu costume (getting slowly cooked inside the rubber mask). The foot traffic was heavier than the last time, and we were doing fine with the leaflets. As usual, the response from the people passing by was uniformly excellent.
The only negative responses I saw was one young man (with a rather fetching snake thingie stuck to his forehead) who thought we should "GET A LIFE" - and walked away before I had a chance to fill him in on what was going on - and an old man who launched into a rather artificial sounding laugh before walking away. I guess we can't please all the people all the time ;-)
Something like half an hour into the demo, a street person (a 'Big Issue' vendor) walked up and really wanted to participate. He was dead keen on wearing the mask, and was huegely effective in pressing leaflets into the hands of people. I'm not sure, but it seemed like he managed to shift as many leaflets as the rest of us combined. He was having a great time, jumping around, waving the Xemu ray-gun (water-pistol) at kids and telling "I AM XEMU - HOW ARE YOU?" The perfect exponent of the "street theater" school of protesting, he made the rest of us smile and laugh (with admiration) for almost two hours solid. Although he was of the down-and-out variety, he never asked for any reward for his efforts (apart from some coca-cola). With ten people like this, we could flush the clams clean out of Brighton in no time at all, but I digress ;-) With me in the Xemu costume and this guy in the rubber mask, we had the world premiere of the "distributed Xemu" concept, which certainly drew quite a bit of attention, particularly from the kids. Kids respond well to the Xemu story, and once kids in the schools start making fun of Xemu, I can't see tehe clams doing to wel in the town...
In total we must have handed out some 400 - 500 leaflets (someone had to run off to make copies when we ran out after about an hour), which is way better than we managed the first time. Oddly enough, there didn't seem to be any of *our* leaflets in the trash-cans up or down the streets...
Signatures were collected for a petition to the government to start an investigation into $cientology. People responded pretty well to this (although we had the usual problem that anyone with a clip-board near the org is assumed to be a clam). We had many people grabbing a leaflet, browsing it, stopping, turning and asking if there was a petition they could sign. We were happy to oblige ;-)
The clams hardly showed at all. Rumour had it that they were up at Saint Hill for some event, which would explain their extremely low-key presence. They did send out two-three leafletters to go way up-street (never anywhere near us), so we had a completely clean shot at the sidewalk in front of the org. A photographing clam popped out to do the honours after more than an hour, and followed the observers around for some time.
Dave was on rare form, belting out the suppresive songs with gusto. Any sighting (or near-sighting) of a clam brought on a verse of 'Xemu Loves Me.'
What with getting no significant hassle from the clams and having all the elements in place (picket signs, Xemu and a very active Dave on the megaphone), this was as good as it gets. We all went away really keyed up, and yearning for the next demo.
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