Posts Tagged ‘Scientology’

‘Anonymous’ Protest Church of Scientology

Sunday, February 11th, 2024

‘Anonymous’ Protest Church of Scientology – This protest on Sunday 10th February 2008 was I am fairly sure the first protest where I had come across people wearing the ‘Anonymous’ Guy Fawkes masks that later became popular and are still seen occasionally at protests. Some wore other masks, perhaps preferring not to contribute royalties to Warner Brothers and these made the protest more interesting visually.

'Anonymous' Protest Church of Scientology

The masks were based on the illustrations by David Lloyd for the 1980s graphic novel ‘V for Vendetta’ written by Alan Moore, but had become well-known in 2006 with the release of the film version where it was worn by the anarchist freedom fighter ‘V’.

'Anonymous' Protest Church of Scientology

The protest was also one of the earliest physical protests in the UK at least to be organised and carried out by an Internet-based organisation, Project Chanology, set up the previous month to oppose attempts by the Church of Scientology to remove one of their videos from the web.

'Anonymous' Protest Church of Scientology
Some wore L Ron Hubbard Masks

This video, part of the Scientology training material featured leading Hollywood actor Tom Cruise, then alleged to be the second in command of the organisation. Since then Cruise appears to have distanced himself at least to some extent from Scientology, which had been at the root of his two divorces from Nicole Kidman and Katie Holmes, and to have concentrated on his movie career.

'Anonymous' Protest Church of Scientology

There have been more and more revelations published about Scientology and allegations of the harm it has caused to those who either leave the organisation or publish material about it, who are regarded as ‘fair game’ for harassment campaigns.

As I wrote in 2008, it was because of this that Project Chanology called “themselves ‘Anonymous’ and the London demonstration was one of over 50 protests in cities around the world in which those taking part hide their identity behind masks.

Various reports published over the years have comprehensively exposed some of the practices of the Church of Scientology and the number of its adherents is said to have dropped although the organisation has grown richer and acquired more real estate.

The London centre on Queen Victoria St was opened in 2006 and “20 City of London police officers between them accepted more than £11,000 in gifts and entertainment from the Church of Scientology” according to the London Evening Standard, perhaps why they arrested and charged a teenager in May 2008 for holding a placard “Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult.” The case was dropped after advice from the CPS.

So far as I was aware there were no arrests at the protest on 10th February at Queen Victoria Street or later when the protesters moved to the Dianetics & Scientology Life Improvement Centre in Tottenham Court Road.

More pictures at ‘Anonymous’Protest – Church of Scientology on My London Diary.

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Anonymous March to Parliament – 2013

Sunday, November 5th, 2023

Anonymous March to Parliament – On Monday 5th of November 2012 around two thousand Anonymous supporters met in Trafalgar Square and marched to Parliament Square against austerity, the cuts and the increasing gap between rich and poor, warning the government they need to change.

Anonymous March to Parliament - 2013

This was part of #Operation Vendetta, which they described as “a worldwide Anonymous operation of global strength and solidarity, a warning to all governments worldwide that if they keep trying to censor, cut, imprison, or silence the free world or the free internet they will not be our governments for much longer.”

Anonymous March to Parliament - 2013

Wikipedia describes Anonymous as “a decentralized international activist and hacktivist collective and movement primarily known for its various cyberattacks against several governments, government institutions and government agencies, corporations and the Church of Scientology.” The article also quotes their common tag-line “We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.

Anonymous March to Parliament - 2013

Anonymous supporters or ‘Anons’ remain anonymous by wearing masks styled on those in David Lloyd’s illustrations, based on those used in London in 1605 by Guy Fawkes, for Alan Moore’s graphic novel V for Vendetta which features ‘V’, an anarchist revolutionary and superhero who dresses in a mask and cloak. In 2005 the story was made into a film and masks based on Lloyd’s drawings were mass-produced as merchandise for this, copyrighted by Warner Brothers who collect royalties on them, though there have been many pirated versions.

Anonymous March to Parliament - 2013

The complex story, written when Thatcher was prime minister and set in the near future is set in a Britain after a nuclear war in which the UK suffered little direct damage as a Labour government had renounced nuclear weapons and closed US bases before it broke out. But in the post-war chaos corporations and fascists hadtaken power and established a totalitarian state. In the story which begins on Guy Fawkes Night in London in 1997, V engages in a number of attacks against the regime, including on 5th November 1998 blowing up the Post Office Tower and it ends following V’s death with a general insurrection in which Downing Street is blown up by an Underground train carrying V’s body.

Of course there is no Underground line below Downing Street although there are underground tunnels below much of Whitehall and elsewhere in London some of which are used by police and security services. They were built 100ft down for communications cables during World War 2 and the network was expanded during the Cold War Era.

Across the world Anonymous has carried out a number of sometimes successful cyber-operations as well as launching real-world protests, particularly against Scientology and child pornography sites.

This protest in London called for an end to cuts in education, health and welfare and the end of ‘austerity measures’ that target the poor and vulnerable, calling on the government to tackle the causes of the problems, including the banks and tax avoidance and evasion. They also want freedom for the Internet, with respect for the privacy of Internet users and the dropping of the Communications Data Bill.

They also demanded the release of Internet activists who they say are political prisoners, including Julian Assange then still holed up in a London embassy, Richard O’Dwyer wanted in the US for alleged copyright infringements, and the “PayPal 14, Jeremy Hammond, Topiary and the 4 anons of the UK that will stand trial on November 7th.”

Although the Anons had stressed this was to be an entirely peaceful event the police were taking few chances and were out in force, perhaps reacting more to the events in the novel than the actual event they were policing.

The event itself as might have been expected was chaotic, and the movement from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square was more a drift than a march. Police reacted angrily after the protests simply walked around a line of police trying to stop them were simply walked around and one officer clearly lost his temper at the insistent taunting and photographing by the activists, but police and other protesters soon calmed things down.

Banners were raised along the fence outside the Houses of Parliament, and one young woman removed her shirt to pose in her bra. The ‘heritage wardens’ tried to stop people using fire poi in the square but soon had to give up as more and more began to perform. Police tried without much success to clear the roads to keep traffic moving around the square, and a ‘Transport for London’ lorry managed to effectively block a junction to hold up the bus I was on for over 10 minutes after I had decided to go home. The protest apparently continued for several hours after I’d left.

More on My London Diary at Anonymous March to Parliament.

Fast Food, Scientology & Reclaim Love

Wednesday, February 15th, 2023

London Saturday 15th February 2014

Hungry for Justice For Fast Food Workers – Oxford St

Fast Food, Scientology & Reclaim Love

The Fast Food Rights Campaign to support and unionise workers in fast food outlets was launched by a national day of action, with a ‘Hungry For Justice’ protest on Oxford Street led by John McDonnell MP and Ian Hodson of the Bakers Food Allied Workers Union BFAWU.

Fast Food, Scientology & Reclaim Love

The UK campaign followed on from strikes in around a hundred cities across the USA by food workers at the end of 2013, showing that it was possible to organise and unionise workers in an industry where it had been said to be impossible.

Fast Food, Scientology & Reclaim Love

The BFAWU in the UK had led the fight against zero hours contracts, wining an important victory against Hovis in Wigan. Companies such as McDonalds are notable for their anti-union policies and generally rates of pay in fast food outlets are abysmal and working conditions often extremely poor.

Fast Food, Scientology & Reclaim Love

The fast food chains in this country had sales of £6.9billion in 2012 and were making huge profits at the expense of their employees. In the UK the average wage of food workers in 2014 was only £5 an hour, below the minimum legal wage for adult workers – with many employees being below the age of 21.

In the USA over half the workers in the food industry rely on benefits to top up their incomes, and the situation in the UK is no better. Governments effectively subsidise these low-pay employers.

The campaign and this protest in the UK was supported by the BFAWU, Unite the Resistance, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), Youth Fight for Jobs, the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) and other campaigning organisations.

I met the protesters outside a Burger King on the Tottenham Court Road where the protest began. As well as protesting outside, people went inside to hand out fliers to the customers and to the staff urging them to join the BWAFU.

The protest then moved on to two branches of McDonald’s on Oxford Street, where security staff prevented the protesters entering, although at the first one man was allowed to go in and give leaflets to the staff. There were were protests and speeches on the pavement outside the shops.

The protesters did walk in to two branches of Costa Coffee, behaving politely and handing out the leaflets, and after a brief discussion leaving quietly when asked to do so.

More at Hungry for Justice For Fast Food Workers.

Anons 6th Anniversary at Scientology – Tottenham Court Road

Few turned up for the 6th anniversary of the Anonymous protest against Scientology against the threat to freedom of speech on the internet from personal and often underhand attacks on critics under Scientology’s so-called ‘fair game’ policy.

That protest in 2008, outside the Church of Scientology’s English HQ in Queen Victoria Street and their recruiting centre on the Tottenham Court Rd had been both the first UK protest to be organised solely over the web and the first time that the now-familiar ‘V for Vendetta’ Guy Fawkes masks, worn to hide identities because of the often savage recriminations against critics of the cult, had been used at a protest in the UK.

Perhaps the real reason for the low turnout was simply that there now appears to be very little interest in the cult which had been so widely exposed both in events such as that 2008 protest and in the media. It was now attracting very few new recruits and perhaps seemed hardly worth protesting about.

Anons 6th Anniversary at Scientology

Reclaim Love Valentine Party – Piccadilly Circus

This was the 12th Reclaim Love Valentine Party at Piccadilly Circus, an event begun in 2003 by Venus CuMara.

This year it had been others who had attended previous events who decided at the last minute to organise the event as Venus had been away from the country. Rather to our surprise she returned and attended, playing her usual role in organising the circle at the centre of the event.

I’ve written about these events recently so won’t write anything new, but here is part of what I posted in 2014 on My London Diary:

“The idea behind the free party on the street was to celebrate love between people as the most important force in the world, and to do so in a way that counteracted the tremendous commercialisation of love in the annual media shopping promotion frenzy that now surrounds St Valentine’s Day. It was to be a free event, people making and having fun, sharing love, taking place in a public area in the centre of London’s West End shops and under the vast neon advertisements of Picadilly Circus.

“Venus also aimed to send a message of peace and love out across the world – and the London event spawned similar parties at the same time elsewhere across the world – by uniting us all in circles of love at the same time around the world. At 3.30pm everyone here – and at other Reclaim Love parties around the world – joined hands to chant many times ‘May All The Beings In All The Worlds Be Happy & At Peace’.”

I finished my post in 2014 with:

There are really very few such spontaneous events in London like this, and this is unique in central London. I’ve photographed most of these events and I hope that they will continue with others taking over the running in future years.

If you are in London on Saturday afternoon, 18th February 2023, some people plan to be there for a Reclaim Love party. And at 3.33pm to join their hands in a circle to chant.

More pictures at Reclaim Love Valentine Party.

Anonymous Oppose Scientology, Chinese New Year

Friday, February 10th, 2023

On Sunday 10th of February 2008 I photographed protests against the Church of Scientology before going into Chinatown for the Chinese New Year celebrations.

‘Anonymous’ Protest – Church of Scientology – Blackfriars & Tottenham Court Road

Anonymous Oppose Scientology, Chinese New Year

This was the first time I’d come across protesters wearing the ‘Anonymous’ masks that became a common feature at protests in the following years. This grinning Guy Fawkes mask was designed by illustrator David Lloyd for the 1980s graphic novel by Alan Moore and 2005 film ‘V for Vendetta.’

Anonymous Oppose Scientology, Chinese New Year
Placards refer to the high costs and unfair attacks on opponents

When hacktivists set up Project Chanology to campaign against Scientology at the start of 2008, they realised that like all other critics of the movement they would face vicious and intensive personal attacks from the group and needed to protect their identities both on-line and in person.

Anonymous Oppose Scientology, Chinese New Year
Some wore photocopy masks of Scientology’s founder L Ron Hubbard

So those behind Project Chanology decided to call themselves ‘Anonymous’ and hide themselves behind these masks when protesting. The London protest was one of over 50 protests in cities around the world at this time in which many of those taking part wore them.

Anonymous Oppose Scientology, Chinese New Year

As I wrote at the time “I’m just amazed that Scientology is still around, despite having been comprehensively exposed so many times over the years. You can find out more about it on Wikipedia.” reveals much of the uglier side of the cult

Wikipedia records that “The Church of Scientology has been described by government inquiries, international parliamentary bodies, scholars, law lords, and numerous superior court judgments as both a dangerous cult and a manipulative profit-making business.”

To my surprise round 4-500 had come for a peaceful protest on the walkway facing the Church of Scientology building in Queen Victoria Street at Blackfriars. After the protest there many of them went on to a second demonstration opposite the Dianetics & Scientology Life Improvement Centre in Tottenham Court Road, where those passing by are often lured into the building to take tests and pressured to join the cult, which demands large financial contributions from members.

More pictures at ‘Anonymous’ Protest – Church of Scientology on My London Diary.

Chinese New Year Celebrations, Soho

Things were festive in Chinatown which was packed with visitors celebrating the Chinese New Year.

Though many of those who work in the area it was a very busy day, selling Chinese decorations, toys and food.

Performers were going around the area as Chinese lions, leaping up to grab salad vegetables hung at shop doorways and bringing good luck to the businesses in exchange for cash.

Gerrard Street at the centre of Chinatown was thronging with crowds, though my ultrawide lens meant I could still work even though it was difficult to get a clear view. But soon I just had to leave for some quieter back streets for a while.

There was a money god, but he was only handing out entry forms for a competition to win a return ticket to Hong Kong

martial arts demonstrations…

and a dancing dragon carried by children from Surrey. But I soon tired of the noise and the crowds and as I commented “there are 51 other weekends of the year when its probably more interesting to come and see Chinatown how it really is.” And I went home. I think this was the last year I photographed the festival.

More pictures at Chinese New Year Celebrations, Soho on My London Diary, where you can also find images of the festival from 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 using the search box at the top of the page.

Pussy Riot, ATOS, Scientology & Stand with Brad

Sunday, January 16th, 2022

Pussy Riot, ATOS, Scientology & Stand with Brad
January 16th 2013 was an unusually busy day for protests in London on a Wednesday, though not all were quite what they seemed.

My working day started a short walk from Notting Hill Gate station, where a small group of protesters had come to take part in an International Day of Solidarity with Maria Alyokhina, one of the three members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot who were sentenced for their performance of an anti-Putin “punk anthem” in a Moscow Orthodox cathedral the previous February.

Alyokhina was sent to serve two years in a prison camp at Perm in Siberia, one of the Soviet Unions harshest areas and was appearing in court that day to plea for her sentence to be suspended so she could raise her son, born in 2008, until he is 14.

She was kept in prison until 13th December 2013 when she was released under an amnesty bill by the Russian Duma, and since has continued her political activism, suffering further arrests and assaults. Last year – 2021 – she served two 15 day prison sentences before being put on a year’s parole.

The protest on the main road close to the Russian Embassy which is hidden down a very private street was scheduled to last three hours, and had got off to a slow start, with some of those arriving deciding to go away for coffee and come back later. Numbers were expected to rise later, but I couldn’t wait as I was due at another protest at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand.

I arrived at the vigil at the Royal Courts of Justice to find there was also a second protest taking place. I had come to meet disabled protesters who were supporting a tribunal hearing of a judicial review of Work Capablility Assessments on the grounds they violate the Equality Act as they are not accessible for those with mental health conditions.

Those taking part included members of the Mental Health Resistance Network, MHRN, Disabled People Against Cuts, DPAC, Winvisible, Greater London Pensioners Association and others, including members of the Counihan family and PCS members who work at the court.

Speakers at the rally reminded us of the special problems with the Work Capability Assessments for many with mental health conditions, as these are often spasmodic. On good days claimants may not seem very ill and seem fit for work, while on bad days they may be unable to attend an assessment and for this reason be automatically judged fit for work.

Their press release included the statement:
‘Dozens of disabled people are dying every week following assessment. Nearly 40% of those who appeal the decision to remove benefits have the decision overturned, meaning thousands of people are wrongly being put through a traumatic and harrowing experience needlessly. The governments own appointed assessor of the policy has ruled it ‘unfit for purpose’… This would not be acceptable in any other government contract, yet goes without comment or sanction by this government. No-one is called to account, no-one takes responsibility.’

Also protesting outside the courts were the ‘Citizens Commission on Human Rights (United Kingdom)’ who claimed that a child who has never been diagnosed with any mental illness was being dosed with a dangerous anti-psychotic drug prescribed by a psychiatrist. Wikimedia describes the group as ‘a Scientology front group which campaigns against psychiatry and psychiatrists’ and was established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology.

The court backed them in the particular case concerned, though most of the information about it was confidential and the court decision may not have been confirmed by the family court.

Among those taking part in their protest was a man in a white coat at the protest holding pill bottles representing the drugs they described as redundant and unscientific and instead promoting the benefits of ASEA, which appears to be an unscientific scam, promoted by dubious means. Basically salt water, the web site ‘Science-Based Medicine’ concluded: “The only value of the product is the entertainment value that can be derived from reading the imaginative pseudoscientific explanations they have dreamed up to sell it.”

Finally I went to Grosvenor Square for a protest outside the US Embassy where protesters, including members of ‘Veterans for Peace’, were holding a vigil in solidarity with Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, on day 963 of his pretrial detention while his defence argued in court for charges to be dismissed for lack of a ‘speedy trial.’

They stood holding placards in silence while the audio of a 45 minute video, ‘Collateral Murder’ allegedly leaked by Manning to Wikileaks was played on a PA system. The video clearly shows US forces committing war crimes and has become a symbol of the need for Wikileaks and ‘for courageous whistle-blowers like Bradley Manning.’

The protest was one of a series organised by WISE Up Action, a Solidarity Network for Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, and after the vigil at the US Embassy many of those taking part were going to the daily vigil outside the Ecuadorian embassy where Assange was then inside having been granted asylum and under threat of arrest by British police should he leave. But it had been a long day and I decided it was time for me to leave for home before ‘Collateral Murder’ finished playing.

More at:
Stand with Brad at US Embassy
Stop Psychiatry Drugging Kids
Equality Protest Against ATOS Work Assessments
Pussy Riot London Solidarity Demonstration

Shock treatment

Friday, November 22nd, 2019

I hadn’t really realised what I was letting myself in for when I went to photograph a protest by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights against the use of Electroconvulsive Therapy (they call it ‘Electroshock treatment’.)

For once I hadn’t done my research, but had just seen the Facebook event page and thought that it might be interesting and the weather was good and I wanted to get out and away from the computer. Had I followed normal practice and done a few seconds of research on the CCHR I might have found something else to do on that Monday afternoon.

Although I’ve never had electrical shock treatment myself, it is something I’ve had some personal involvement with as family members have suffered from it – though now in the distant past, and they are long dead. But I’m convinced they were permanently harmed by it.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s it was carried out rather more crudely (and certainly more cruelly) than now, with larger currents and often if not usually without anaesthetic. I find it hard to understand why such random and often harmful practice was ever allowed to be used on patients with little or no understanding or real research and am convinced that though they survived the treatment it was a factor which led to early deaths of some of my family members.

Here’s something the BMJ wrote in an introduction to a debate in their pages earlier this year (the full article is only available to subscribers)

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) involves sending an electric current through the brain to trigger a seizure. The treatment is given under general anaesthetic with muscle relaxants, so the body does not convulse during the seizure.
No-one is entirely sure how it works, but it is thought to change the way brain cells interact in parts of the brain involved in depression. ECT use in the UK continues to fall, but remains controversial.

What a few seconds of research after the event revealed is that the CCHR is a part of the Church of Scientology, an cult that engages in its own form of brainwashing and which I want nothing to do with. An article in The Atlantic describes the CCHR as “a subsidiary (of the Church of Scientology ) whose sole aim is to discredit and dismantle the field of psychiatry” and its author looks at the “classic propaganda techniques” it uses.

[You can read more about Scientology (if you need to) on Wikipedia and in the 1991 Time Magazine exposé, The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power. ]

I had realised there was something rather odd about the event as I sat waiting for the protesters to gather and the protest to begin at Potter’s Fields next to Tower Bridge. And my doubts were reinforced as I listened to Brian Daniels, Executive Director of CCHR, giving out precise instructions for the protest. There was just something entirely corporate about the whole event, even in the firm handshake and confident gaze of Daniels as he welcomed me to the event. It just wasn’t like a normal protest.

Despite my doubts I decided to go ahead and photograph the event as I would any other protest and you can see more pictures at End Inhuman Electroshock treatment.