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Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology

Subject: Clearwater: Preliminaries

From: dustman@athensnet.com (Dustbin Anonymous Remailer) Date: Tue, 11 Mar 1997 08:28:57 -0500

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March 11, 1997

[from Prignillius]

The adventure began as I was doing my final packing on the morning of Friday the 7th. One of my sisters called and said she had just been talking to a friend of hers, who I'll call Gloria, a woman I consider to be very sharp.

"Gloria asked me, `How does he know that the people organizing the picket aren't just undercover Scientologists in disguise?' and I didn't have an answer for her. So I became just as worried, and decided to call you and see what you had to say about that."

"Well, after a couple of years on the newsgroup, you can pretty much tell who's who."

"On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog," she countered.

I chuckled. "Besides, why would they picket their own Church when they obviously hate it so much?"

"No, there won't be a picket. They'll just lure you down to their headquarters claiming there's a picket, and then take you off some place and kill you or something."

"No, there's really going to be a picket. The same person who organized it last year is doing it again this year. I've seen the pictures of last year's picket on his web page. There's been a press release, and in addition, both the Tampa Tribune and the St. Petersburg Times have mentioned the picket and the Candlelight Vigil in several articles, many of which I've read directly on their web sites.

"Furthermore, last year the critics only had 11 people show up and nothing happened. This year we're supposed to have 38, so I can't imagine they'll dare try anything. We're just going to be too visible."

She was genuinely relieved at the non-defensive facts I presented her with.

"OK, I'll call Gloria back and tell her."

When I related this story to my Mom on the way to the airport, she mentioned that a close friend of hers had also expressed concern for my safety when she had heard where I was going. I think my Mom was actually looking for some reassurance herself, so I repeated to her what I had told my sister, beginning to feel like maybe I was an "effective critic" after all, a fact which she confirmed.

"So you can see you've done your job pretty well at convincing us about Scientology."

As I went through the metal detector in the airport, I was very surprised when one of the security guards gave me a big smile and said, "I *really* like your T-shirt." She was in her fifties, and looked like the type who never would have heard of Scientology, although there is an org in our town. Maybe she had a relative in it or something. But I sure never expected anyone so far away from the picket to make a comment.

"I really like it, and I agree with it completely."

My concerned sister and her boyfriend had helped me custom-make a couple of T-shirts. There's a new kind of paper you can put into a color printer, print out a design, and then iron it onto a Tshirt. So we did the whole thing up in Corel Draw. My T-shirt said, "Hey Scientology! Stop Hurting People!"

The "Stop" was a big red stop sign centered right on my Prignillian belly, and I did the "Hurting" in a font called "Creepy," that looks like haunted-house-blood-dripping letters. I also made the word the color of dried blood. It looked real professional, a lot better than I ever could have done with fabric markers, which was the approach I was originally going to take.

I recommend this transfer paper to anyone who wants a real nice Tshirt for a low price.

The rest of the trip to Clearwater passed without further encounter or comment, but I noticed many people stared at my shirt, and none of them seemed to react negatively.

I had been instructed in secret ARSCC email to meet my fellow SPs in a conference room at the hotel where most of the demonstrators were staying. I was wearing one of my T-shirts, so there was no paranoia as I approached the crowded "war room" which had several people hanging about outside the door.

I thought I recognized one of them as Ron Newman, but I wasn't certain, as I hadn't heard that he was planning to attend the picket. I approached him anyway, however, and asked him his name.

"I'm Ron."

I smiled.

"I thought I recognized you from the picture on your web page. I'm Prignillius."

As we shook hands, he did a gratifying double-take (I had expected to surprise some people when I showed up and was actually a real person) and then he introduced me to one of the people I had most hoped to meet, Tashback. It was my turn to be surprised, as I had no indication that she was planning to attend. I had just hoped she would.

Ron continued to introduce me around. (One suggestion to Jeff for next time: I think name tags would have been a good idea.)

I won't try to list all the people who were there, as I know I'll leave some out and piss somebody off, and everyone's attendance was important. But I'll try to drop names throughout my report to try and give at least some feeling for who was there.

It was really nice meeting so many people who have been such a big part of my life for the past two-and-a-half years.

I was (in a way) surprised by how different it is to actually meet people and interact with them rather than just typing messages on a.r.s or IRC. I ended up liking people that I had perhaps been somewhat turned-off by on-line. For example, in spite of everything I know and/or think about him, I couldn't help liking Steve Fishman. He's a warm, friendly and funny guy, rather unassuming and non-egotistical. I'd say similar things about Gary Scarff. I also found a lot more camaraderie with Arnie Lerma than I had expected.

I still didn't warm much to Lawrence Wollersheim, who seemed to feel like because he had bothered to show up, he was now in charge of leading and organizing the demonstration.

I spent most of the evening pasting poster-sized signs onto posterboard with Jeff Lee. I had apparently arrived late enough that I had just missed Dell Liebreich's lawyer, who had expressed his encouragement and thanks for what we were doing.

There was much good socializing, and everyone was open and friendly. I had some particularly enjoyable conversations with Ray Randoph, Keith Henson, Mark Dallara and a guy named Doug (who ended up attending the vigil in full Scottish regalia, to honor the McPhersons).

Jeff Jacobsen (and Lawrence Wollersheim) laid out the game plan for the following day. We would try to picket right in front of the Ft. Harrison Hotel, but Jeff had the word that they were going to be washing the front of the building, so we might have to picket in front of the small park across the street.

However, the park was the scene of a kiddie fair the Church was putting on to commemorate "Drug Awareness Day" or somesuch crap.

So we didn't really know where we would march, but we decided to start right in front of the hotel.

A few more signs, a little more socializing, and then it was back to my hotel for bed.

The next morning, all of us (including Xenu!) met in the parking lot of the hotel at 10:10 AM. We actually got away on time, carpooling to the courthouse. I had the pleasure of sharing the ride with Dean Benjamin, whose company I greatly enjoyed.

We had practically no sooner driven up and parked next to the courthouse when an OSA goon came over and started filming us. I saw this guy several more times during the day (and early the next morning at the hotel).

We got out our signs and Mark Dallara distributed water bottles. Most people left a few minutes early for the Ft. Harrison Hotel, but Jeff J. and I stayed behind at the courthouse until the stated time in case any locals showed up (they didn't, but NOW had some members who showed up at the Ft. Harrison, chanting "Scientology, you're a lie! You don't care if women die!" , a sound-bite that made the 6:00 news).

As we were waiting on the corner, a guy drove up looking for Arnie Lerma (who was already over at the Ft. Harrison). The guy said he had something he wanted to give to Arnie. Jeff agreed to meet him around the corner behind the courthouse.

As Jeff walked off, I was concerned, remembering the exhortation he had made for us not to wander off anywhere alone, not having any idea who the stranger was who had just driven up, wondering what he wanted to give to Arnie, thinking about the Church's love-affair with bombs.

"Are you going to be all right, Jeff?"

"Yeah, I think so."

Then he thought for a second.

"Well, I'll stay where you can see me."

This ended up being untrue, as a few minutes later he disappeared around the back end of the courthouse. I was worried, but held my ground, holding my sign out and getting some good honk feedback from the passing cars.

Before I could get too concerned about Jeff, he reappeared. It turned out what the guy wanted to give Arnie were some really funny and well-done signs, one of which said "BTs Are Forever" with some great drawings of BTs. He was apparently ex-OSA, and was afraid he'd be recognized. (I also heard later from another source that he may be posting to a.r.s soon.)

At that point, Jeff and I decided no one else was going to show, and we started for the Ft. Harrison.

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