From news.interserv.net!news.sprintlink.net!in1.uu.net!panix!cmcl2!is2.NYU.EDU!spurgeon Thu Sep 14 09:45:00 1995
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Keith Spurgeon)
Subject: NYC Picket Report
Date: 11 Sep 1995 02:44:25 GMT
Organization: New York University
X-Newsreader: TIN [version 1.2 PL2]
The Sept. 9 picket in New York City took place at the Church of
Scientology New York on West 46th Street, from noon until 3:00 p.m.
Primarily due to late organization and remailer problems, the
picketers numbered only five: two ex-scientologists and three denizens
of Usenet. A reporter for Internet World was on hand.
Wogs in the Passing Lane on the Road to Total Freedom
Immediately upon the picketers' arrival two OSA (Office of
Special Affairs) operatives and a photographer came out of the org.
Initially they engaged the picketers in conversation and asked for and
received leaflets. As the afternoon progressed, the demeanor of the
OSA ops deteriorated. They tried to shadow the picketers. They
spouted profanity, taunted sophomorically, mocked and harassed.
The OSA ops were obviously attempting to distract and
intimidate the picketers. To the general public I am sure their conduct
was a good vaccination against joining the cult.
An OT when unable to identify a cult member, asked another
scientologist about the person's name. The picketer who noticed this
commented to the OT8, "I guess that total recall is not all it's cracked
up to be." The OT8 belligerently harassed and assaulted that picketer,
at one point looking at the picketer's feet while aggressively stepping
This OT8 informed the same protestor that if it weren't for the
picket, the OT8 would have the day off, and he was upset that he had to
stay until the protest was over.
Other scientololgists, probably 7 or so at any one time, held
and leafleted outside the org. While they may or may not have been
OSA, they behaved civilly. Extended and mostly amicable discussions
took place between these scientologists and picketers. In most cases,
these scientologists gave the anticipated responses to queries.
Surprisingly, each of them claimed not to know about the recent libel
award of some $3 million to Judge Hill in Canada. OSA ops asked
each picketer if they were "with" CAN (the Cult Awareness Network).
Other interactions were not so genial. A black woman
scientologist repeatedly equated calling scientology a cult with calling
African-Americans "nigger." Picketers soundly diatched this
analogy, but she repeated it reularly.
Scientologists publicly called picketers by many clever names
and phrases, such as: scumbag, asshole, full of shit, geeks, people who
don't read books, and people just on the Internet going 'type, type,
type.' In all likelihood, even more colorful phrases echoed inside the
walls of the org. OSA ops also ridiculed the dress of picketers, who
were dressed casually but respectably.
Shortly after the picket began, scientologists produced their own
signs, with Woody-esque legends such as "Picketers Support Computer
Crime." Scientologists handed out the leaflets titled "These
'Demonstrators' Support Computer Criminals," seen in other cities, as
well as copies of the Internet issue of "Freedom" magazine.
Because scientologists had picket signs with metal handles (in
violation of NYC laws), and after the picketer had his feet stepped on
by the OT8, protesters called the police. One picketer videotaped the
police officer telling scientologists "You are acting like babies."
I asked one scientologist if he thought Hubbard was perfect. He
replied that of course he did not. I asked him to tell me three
substantial errors Ron had made in his writings. After a moment or
two of stumbling, his reply was that Hubbard erred initially in making
the Tech available too easily, and restricted access to it later to
proper administration. I had an alternative explanation ($$$) that I did
not have time to detail. He offered no further evidence of Hubbard's
fallibility, and I did not have time probe for more.
Other stray comments from scientologists
1) They claim the church does not owe Wollersheim
2) Freeloader debt is a legitimate consequence of breaking the
3) Cult members are always free to blow at any time
4) The People's Temple was a CIA experiment
5) Mr. OT8 claimed to have seen Miscavige last week in
6) The current Spanish case is the result of corruption in the
government. Dishonest Spanish lawmakers, upset with the success of
Crimanon in battling drugs, are protecting their drug money.
One picketer approached a woman on the street and spoke to her.
The woman asked if the picketer was a scientologist, and the protester
said he was not. The woman replied, "If you're not a scientologist, I
don't want to talk to you," and walked into the org.
Picketers encouraged scientologists to get on-line and defend
their beliefs, but each of them said they did not have the time. They
encouraged us to go to a library and get the facts on Scientology. They
seemed to believe that being on the Internet and reading books were
Warning the Raw Meat: Public Interaction and Responses
West 46th Street is in the theater district and the org is on a
busy block west of Broadway. Foot traffic was moderate, and picketers
gave out about 600 flyers. Flyers were topical and color-coded 8.5"x
o Scientology attacks the Internet (double sided, w/ NY Times
stories-- a particularly popular leaflet)
o Scientology Price List to OT8
o Judicial decisions / recent and current legal situations (double-
o A description of the theology (double-sided, by an ex-sciento)
o Excerpts from the Time magazine Story of 1991
o Editorials: "The Children of Scientology" and "Tax-exempt
status" from the St. Petersburg Times (double sided)
Common public reactions to the picket included:
1) Initially perceiving the picketers as scientology recruiters, only to
hear the word "cult" and grab a leaflet.
2) Not wanting to be bothered (this is NYC, after all).
3) Saying they "know it's a cult," and often taking leaflets.
4) Stopping to ask questions and take more literature (this happened
5) Taking literature from each group, wanting to "know both sides."
In one case, a passerby turned and walked back to a picketer to
ask for more material. An OSA, in typical juvenile mode, said, "These
people are crazy." The passerby glared at the OSA op and said, "The
scientologists I know are crazy," refusing all scientologist literature.
Another man crossed the street to take flyers, and addressed a
picketer confidentially, saying he had been watching for a while, was
reading alt.religion.scientology, and that he admired those who
Most of the dozens of pedestrians who stopped to talk to
picketers were decidedly anti-cult. Some were uninformed and were
surprised when they learned about the cult. Many said they were going
to look at the web pages and read a.r.s.
Perhaps the most heartening moment for the picketers, and a
perfect lagniappe, occurred as they walked away from the pickee.
A young man ran up, beckoning them so stop. He worked nearby and
scientology disgusted him thoroughly. He had read Dianetics, rejected
it as cultic gibberish, and bristled at the table the scientologists
regularly set up to recruit new members. He said if there were to be
another picket, he would call his friends and they would all join in.
And he expressed his thanks and respect for the picketers having
taken on the cult.