Locals Harass Scientologists


According to a MySpace message and viral video floating around the ’net, members of “Anonymous” — a shadowy and slightly over-dramatic protest group — have been tormenting Tom Cruise and his brethren by hacking into Scientology Web sites in recent weeks. According to the video, narrated in a creepy robot-voice, Anonymous had plans to descend on Scientology headquarters around the country on February 10 at 11 a.m.

Sure enough, large clusters of people in mostly black waved signs at the corner of 39th and Main, near Kansas City’s Scientology office. “Be wary of the 10th of February” is a line from the 2005’s V for Vendetta, and a few of the protesters wore masks depicting the movie’s mustachioed title character. Others wore ski masks and handkerchiefs over their faces. One guy wore shorts despite the searing cold. Police officers sat in a car and watched silently from across the street.

The masks were necessary, someone explained, because the Church was known to retaliate against its detractors by finding their addresses and papering their neighborhoods with fliers making scandalous allegations about them. One older, bearded guy didn’t wear a mask and stood on the street corner puffing brazenly on a cigar. “The reason I don’t have a mask on is that I’m not that worried,” he said. “I know my neighbors. They’re not going to turn against me.”

Some of the signs encouraged passing motorists to honk against Scientology, and there was lots of honking, which seemed to fuel the protesters, as did a case of Red Bull.

Protesters explained to passersby by that they weren’t against anyone’s right to practice their religion, but they disagreed with Scientology’s stance against pharmaceuticals and with their tax-exempt status. Someone noted the irony of an H&R Block office located right next door to the Scientology building.

The guy with the cigar said that he was waiting for someone to come out of the Scientology building, where the Church was supposedly holding “mass.” He said he hadn’t been protesting Scientology very long, but that he knew that representatives of the church sometimes confronted their protesters. “What are your crimes?” He said, “They’ll ask you, ‘What have you done in your life that you have to try to tear down Scientology?’”

Here’s a video of a quick interview with one of the protesters.

After I turned the camera off and thanked him, he said, “I’m pretty sure you’re a Scientologist, but oh well.”

“I’m not a Scientologist,” I told him.

“Yeah,” the guy said, doubtfully. “That’s exactly what a Scientologist would say.”

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