Scientology Protesters Gain Fans, Give Tours in Times Square
Anonymous' monthly events in Times Square are becoming an attraction in their own right. Today passers-by took in the young and occasionally costumed protesters on West 46th Street.
"Scientology is the original Dungeons and Dragons," a protester yelled. "Not cool!" Another Anon looked toward the Scientology building and screamed, "You're lucky Chuck Norris isn't with us!"
The curious giggled and took a flyer. Some chatted with Anons about more serious issues with the Church of Scientology, and even let themselves be taken on brief, fanciful "tours" of Scientology.
Some don't even stumble upon the monthly protest by happenstance -- they seek it out. "I think what they're doing is good," said a man named Henry, who became interested the group after reading about them online.
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"These people from Scientology -– they're a bunch of weirdoes and I've read that they've done a lot of messed-up things like they exploit people, take their money, they make their religion more important than someone's family," he added.
New Yorkers are starting to recognize the Anons' Guy Fawkes mask. "It seems like every other day when we're in the City people just see the masks or hear our chants and know that we're those Anonymous guys protesting Scientology," said protester Chimera.
And when they marched in the Village Halloween Parade whispers about the anti-Scientology movement abounded. "You could hear people say Anonymous this, Anonymous that," AnonNation said. "People are definitely becoming more aware of Scientology."
But some still don't know what to make of them. Two tourists paused to take a picture, and wonder aloud about the scene. "Don't join a religion that's younger than your grandfather," one Anon said as he hands over a flyer to the pair.
Typically each month's protest focuses on a particular criticism of the Church of Scientology –- fair game, disconnection, 9/11 rescue worker exploitation, etc. But this month they discussed a variety of issues, including the Rehabilitation Project Force, which has been described as a "prison camp" for wayward Sea Org members by former participants and detractors.
Anonymous members worldwide have been focused on the RPF in particular since Uwe Stuckenbrock, a high-ranking Sea Org member with Multiple Sclerosis died in a facility weeks earlier. Mr. Struckenbrock's brother Markus, who resides in Germany, posted a plea for help on Anonymous message boards.
"He doesn't know where his [brother's] remains are," Little Sister said. "He can't get in touch with them or anything. He's been contacting us, Anonymous, to find out what happened."
Stuckenbrock's tragic story, and the horrific conditions and treatment of members in the RFP, were supposed to be the subjects of a November 8th protest, which was rained out.
Despite that setback, today's protestors were very high energy, piping up chants, dancing and offering cake to those who walked by.
Seizing on their touristy surroundings, MedicAnon offered tours. As she linked arms with one visitor, she pointed towards a building to her left: "This is a theater." She directed his attention to the other side of the street: "This is a cult."
One French woman in a sequined hat stopped for her tour. MedicAnon didn't have to explain much. "It's terrible," the woman said, pointing out her nation's move to ban the Church of Scientology there.
The Anonymous campaign against Scientology has gone on for almost a year and is still gaining recruits. Chaos joined this past September after hearing about the death of Lisa McPherson, which some think was Scientology-related.
She said that most passersby today wondered about all the dancing, the laughter, and Mesanon, who was dressed like a banana. She provided the curious with literature.
"Then they look it up," she said. "Hopefully they'll be motivated to do something too."
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