On March 15th 2008 I attended the Ides of March Anti-Scientology Protest. Only the second protest I have ever participated in, it was much more fun than the first. (Being too chipper when talking about war in Iraq was unlikely to endear me to anyone.)
It took a whole day beforehand for me to analyse my reasons for going, how I would deal with unpleasant problems if they arose, whether I would be able to protect myself from being identified, and how I would feel if I failed and was fair gamed. In the end it was the thought of how I would feel if I didn't go and it turned out to be a huge sucess that got me into the car that morning with my disguises, flyers, and camera.
I was well covered up by the time I got off the train. I put on shades and a fedora in the toilet just before the station, and they made me look like a C-list celebrity trying not to be recognised. I felt silly but it was either that or the fear of being photographed as I met up with the other Anons, and my identity being deduced at some point in the future. I decided to live with the embarrasment rather than risk finding out about Fair Game first hand.
It was quite a walk to the Org, as it is not in a central location. I was looking for suspicious people to begin with. It is a pity my paranoia dipped once we arived, at least two photographers were taking pictures through telephoto lenses from the other side of the junction while one of the Anons talked to the police. I took my own camera out (nobody else had theirs out yet either) and as soon as I lifted it up, the photographers made their exits. Sadly my camera was too slow to be useful as anything but a deterrent.
My paranoia was rampant after that. For about an hour I was making what I hoped were sotto voce humourous faux-accusations of Scientology involvement about anyone who passed, especially if they didn't smile. Fortunately most people did. I was convinced for a few minutes that a couple of people accross the road, one a photographer, "had to be" Scientologists. I even accused the poor guy of looking like my ex-boyfriend's brother. Then the girl smiled. Did that dissuade me? No.. she had to be a "Scilon", just not very good at the stoney faced "Paddington Bear Hard Stare" they all learn on the TRs. Well, I was wrong. I spotted a notepad and all of a sudden she transformed from Scilon to a well meaning student reporter in my mind.
She was actually the local newspaper reporter. I spoke to her for a few minutes while I was getting some photographs of my own from the opposide side of the road. She had written about the local Org before, when it opened the previous summer. She told me she had insisted her name not be put to it (because she knew all about the Fair Game policy) and the same was true of the lovely article she wrote about our protest. I'd be willing to bet that she wouldn't have written so freely if her name had to be on the report.
Critics of Anonymous say that masked protesters don't have the courage to put their name to their opinions. It is more a case of learning from the bad experiences of people in the past, who have spoken out about Scientology's hidden crimes and been the victim of harrasment, trumped-up lawsuits, and other cruelty.
Ironically, the only person to come out of the Org office denied being a Scientologist. How's that for having the courage to stand up for your beliefs?