Subject: Clearwater: The Picket
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Dustbin Anonymous Remailer) Date: Wed, 12 Mar 1997 01:46:55 -0500
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March 11, 1997
I was emotionally prepared for the picket, unlike some of the others. Maybe some of the critics were expecting it to be like the pickets of smaller orgs they had done. Or to be like last year's Ft. Harrison picket. Since I had never been to a picket before, I based my expectations on what I know of the Scieno mind-set, and fully expected to be hassled and "bull-baited."
And I was not at all disappointed in that respect, although I would rather have been. (Actually, there was less right-in-theface sneering than I expected. I guess it's mostly because the cops strictly enforced that everyone keep moving at all times.)
When we got there, we found that indeed the Scientologists were washing the front of the Ft. Harrison Hotel, and although I didn't see them try to dowse anyone, they were definitely trying to flood the sidewalk with soap suds. I read in a newspaper article the next day that the police had required them to stop this activity, so we were able to picket the entire day directly in front of the hotel.
Some people, particularly Arnie, Fishman and Gary Scarff picketed across the street in front of the park. I and most of the other picketers stayed solely in front of the hotel.
When we arrived there were already at least 100 Co$ counterpicketers lining both sides of Ft.Harrison Avenue, carrying signs that said negative things about drugs and crime, and also things like "Keith Henson Child Molester" and "Arnie Lerma Deadbeat Dad" and other untrue DA comments of equal originality.
As I passed an echoing tunnel that led deep into the guts of the Ft.Harrison Hotel, it disgorged at least another 75 counterpicketers, including their one token black member, who they proudly put on display.
The critics were swallowed up in a crowd of milling Scientologists, each of us making a little knot of turbulence wherever we went. I would say each of us was surrounded by an average of 6 Scientologists.
Their favorite trick was to try to get between you and the curb, one in front and one in back, and match your pace exactly. If you speeded up, they'd speed up. If you slowed down, they'd slow down too.
One of my favorite things to do at the end of block was just to keep walking, forcing the keeper in front of me to walk into a yucca plant that was growing there. Then I'd quickly wheel around and start back the other way. Petty, I know, but I had to get some kind of comedy relief.
At the other end, I'd usually confuse them, so they'd turn around and I'd be the one to keep walking, getting a good clear shot at the passing cars with my sign and my T-shirt.
One bitch (excuse me, ladies, but she really was) got in front of me and then stopped dead (which is totally against the rules of picketing, BTW). In my effort not to smash into her, my arm brushed lightly against her back.
She turned to me with a cold snarl and said loudly, "Please don't touch me!"
I must have made an impression on them, because I had my own personal handler for at least an hour and twenty minutes of the picket, from maybe noon to 1:30 or so.
He was an Australian, whose name might have been Steve. He was very persistent, and tried many things to get me to talk to him. The only thing I counted accurately was the number of times he asked me what my name was. He asked me this eleven times during the course of our "conversation." He also asked me where I was from at least five times.
He tried all kinds of stuff to try and get me to react, pushed every button he could think of. Many of his comments were rather friendly. He suggested we go somewhere for a drink. He asked me if I liked Harleys (he was wearing some kind of Harley T-shirt). He asked me what kind of beer I drank, if I'd ever tried Foster's, and recommended it.
"That Foster's is fucking good beer."
He used the "f" word a lot.
I had better luck than most of the others getting my sign viewed. I grew up in a loud family with many children, and I also did some stage acting when I was a teenager, so I have a really loud voice when I choose to use it, genuine Tone 40. When picketers blocked my sign, I yelled (at the absolute top of my voice), "Look! Scientology is trying to block free speech!"
My handler picked up on this, and soon every time I yelled it, he'd yell, "Look! Scientology!" and point around enthusiastically.
Well, I'm at least as smart as any OSA stooge ;-> so I changed it to: "Fascist Scientologists try to block free speech!" This was particularly effective when there were cars with their windows rolled down stopped in front of me for the traffic light.
There was one guy who even continued to block my sign after I yelled this. I figured if he wanted to Bullet his Foot that bad, I'd help him out. Even he realized it was Not Such A Good Idea after about three shouts.
During one break, the OSA goon who had first filmed us gathering by the courthouse made a big show of taking my picture when I pulled out a cigarette and put it in my mouth.
"Don't you want one of me lighting it?" I called as he turned and walked away.
Late in the afternoon, a younger guy, between 17 and 19, I would guess, fairly punky, was my shadow. He was blocking my sign completely.
I said, "I'd advise you not to block my sign."
Silence on my part.
He did it again.
"I'd advise you not to block my sign." Tone vaguely menacing, but not above my normal speaking voice.
So I showed him. He about jumped a foot at "fascist Scientologists," and started walking about four feet in front of me so my sign was clearly visible.
At one point (earlier), I made my 180 at the end of the block, and about four Scientologists held their signs together overlapping, completely obscuring both me and my sign.
Unfortunately for them, traffic was backed up enough that there was a car stopped in the crosswalk right in front of us.
With its windows rolled down.
"Fascist Scientologists try to block free speech!"
"Fascist Scientologists try to block free speech!"
"Look how they try to keep you from hearing the truth! They can't stand for you to hear the truth!"
Several of the milling $cienos shouted, "What truth?"
But I merely countered with, "fascist Scientologists try to block free speech!" two or three more times.
The damage was done.
The signs parted and the Scientologists crossed the street and left me alone.
One of the high points of the picket for me was walking the circuit with Nancy, a blind girl that flew in for the picket.
She wore a sandwich board that said, "Lisa's Blood Is On The Church's Hands" with red hand-prints all over it.
Although these Flag indoctrinees were willing to stoop lower on the moral continuum than just about anyone I've ever met, and I fully expected to hear it, I didn't witness one comment about how "she pulled it in."
I think they were actually kind of freaked out by seeing her there. I didn't hear her get any insults that I remember.
The biggest lesson I learned that afternoon was I understood that to heavily indoctrinated Scientologists the word "hypocrisy" has a double meaning:
There were two particularly glaring examples of this on Saturday. The first was my young part-time handler (mentioned more in the Vigil post), who was one of the throng totally blocking my sign in the incident described above.
After most of them crossed the street and we moved on, he said,
"That really took a lot of courage, to tell a lie like that."
Even though he'd been standing right there blocking my free speech.
At the Vigil, a pretty Scientologist in her twenties came stomping up to me.
"Scientologists don't hurt people," she spat, and then blew out my candle and moved quickly on.
"You idiot," I thought, "you just hurt me by doing that."
Ray Randolph and I decided that their regging motto ought to be, "Join Scientology and learn to be an asshole!"
When drb and I got back to the courthouse, there were two OSA stooges parked right behind my rented car, making a big show of taking pictures of it and writing down the license number.
We of course ignored them completely, making a show of putting our picket signs into the trunk right in front of them.
As we pulled away from the curb, making a U-turn, Dean said, "I wonder if they're going to follow us."
I looked in the rear-view mirror and sure enough, I saw their car making a U-turn also.
"Hey! You can't turn right here!" said Dean suddenly, reminding me that it was one-way. I wonder if they would have followed us going the wrong way up a one-way street?
When the light changed we turned left and immediately encountered the spring-break traffic jam heading to Clearwater Beach, even at 3:30 in the afternoon. I changed lanes after we stopped, and noticed our tail changed lanes right behind me, confirming that they were indeed following us.
We had plenty of gas, and discussed leading them a merry chase, but I wanted to cruise back by the Ft. Harrison and warn any critics who were still there that we were being followed and to be careful.
When the OSA geeks passed the cops in front of the hotel, they apparently chickened out, and pulled out around us. We stopped at the corner and warned the last group of critics who were departing.
I looked up in the next block and saw our would-be stalkers making a U-turn and heading back our way, but I turned right and then right again, and we lost them.
After dropping Dean off at his hotel, I soaked in a hot bathtub for a while and washed off the two layers of sunscreen I had had to put on, then got some lunch (at 5:30 PM -- I hadn't taken a lunch break. I figured I had come 2000 miles to picket, and by god, I was going to picket!)
Then I watched the 6:00 news. We were covered on all 3 local channels, although I missed the first one. The best coverage was on ABC, where they had the sound bite of the NOW people and a short interview with Jeff J.
The other station showed almost exclusively the Scieno's signs, although the verbal commentary was about us.
Then a mad dash back to the courthouse for the vigil, where I arrived about 5 minutes late, but was still the first one there.
+ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - + | Prignillius (Sorry, no email addr right now. I'm workin' on it!) |
| If attacked on some vulnerable point by anyone or anything or |
| any organization, always find or manufacture enough threat |
| against them to cause to sue for peace....Don't ever defend. |
| Always attack. |
| - L. Ron Hubbard | + - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - +
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