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Los Angeles Church of Scientology Commits PR Blunders

July has been a bad PR month for the Church of Scientology in Los Angeles. Picks on senior citizen, makes child cry and bullies local businesses

Los Angeles–July 14

July has been a bad PR month for the Church of Scientology in Los Angeles. On July 5th, the organization shut down pedestrian access on Sunset Blvd and Fountain Ave, fearing that their special event would be picketed. Local residents and hospital visitors were often denied access to the sidewalk, particularly if they showed any interest in the protest. In one instance, a Scientology security guard attempted to deny a disabled senior citizen from walking to her home; this was documented on a popular YouTube video which has spawned a new internet catch phrase to describe Scientology: "Bad People".

The same day, a Scientology operative placed a "No Anonymous" sign in the Subway sandwich shop close to the Scientology complex known internally as "PAC Base" (Pacific Area Command). Members of Anonymous, the internet free speech collective, were protesting Scientology's unconstitutional actions close by and noticed the sign, which was not authorized by Subway. Anonymous asked permission from the store manager, and then removed the sign which was later replaced by "some lady," according to Subway employees. The second sign was also removed.

Anonymous--who wear masks, play music, pass out candy and dance cheerfully as they protest Scientology--are known as "the protesters who have made activism sexy again," according to the Times Online UK. Southern California Anonymous have held six major anti-Scientology protests with up to 800 people present, as well as over thirty "flash raids" comprised of smaller groups picketing various locations around Los Angeles. All have gone off without incident.

On July 12th, at a rally that was part of the monthly global Anonymous demonstrations, Scientology created more bad PR for themselves. During the peaceful rally at the same location, a female Scientologist entered the Subway sandwich shop and posted another "No Anonymous" sign. The woman then forcefully blocked a 6-year old girl and her parents from entering the shop, telling them to "respect the sign" and causing the child cry. Additionally, the woman physically harassed members of Anonymous inside the store, attempting to shove one protestor out the door. The Los Angeles Police Department officers assigned to monitor the demonstration entered the shop and removed the sign.

And if making a child cry wasn't enough action for one day, Scientology – which had once again closed the sidewalks on both Sunset Blvd. and Fountain Ave. surrounding their property to block the Anonymous protest – threatened fellow Hollywood Chamber of Commerce member Starline Tours, the internationally known tour bus company.

"Because of the sidewalk closures, we arranged for a double-decker bus to take participating Anonymous demonstrators along Sunset and Fountain as part of our rally," explained one Anonymous. "It's a comfortable and fun way to demonstrate, especially during the heat wave we're having."

Upon discovering the plan, Scientology called Farid Sapir, owner of Starline Tours, and told him that he had rented his bus to "terrorists" who were planning to use the red double-decker bus to "attack the church with bombs".

Understandably concerned, Sapir contacted the Hollywood Division of the LAPD who in turn spoke with Anonymous and reassured Sapir that the situation was completely safe and peaceful. Seventy members of Anonymous clad in masks and holding signs declaring, "Scientology is a Dangerous Cult" and asking "What kind of cult stalks its critics?" clambered aboard – only to receive a last minute change-of-heart call from Sapir. He explained that Scientology had pressured him into canceling the contract, and had threatened him with loss of business, according to the contact who discussed the situation with him directly.

"As much fun as the double-decker bus ride would have been, it's typical of Scientology to be bullies and to call anyone who questions their policies a terrorist or a criminal," laughed one Anonymous as she exited the bus. "Too bad they felt they had to hurt the bus company and make false threats. But Scientology taking the bus tour away from us won't stop us from having a good time today, nor from continuing on a daily basis to inform the pubic about Scientology's abuses of human rights."

Despite the adversity, members of Anonymous were determined to continue their planned protest. They took up positions along the sidewalks on Sunset Blvd and Fountain Ave., respectfully obeying police orders and the permitted sidewalk closures. The protest continued peacefully and without incident for more than three hours.

More information on Anonymous and its global protests against Scientology can be found in the August issue of Maxim magazine.

–Isabel Joliston

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