While this blog is mainly about the Opera browser and related things, I've decided to write down a brief report on the event I attended today.
On February 10 this year (the birthday of Lisa McPherson, alleged victim of the Church of Scientology), thousands of people across the world gathered to protest against the Church of Scientology. The protest was arranged after a group called "Anonymous" had pledged to destroy what they consider to be nothing but an evil cult. Long story short, the protest was such a smashing success that another one was quickly set up. …
Today, March 15, was that day. It's the birthday of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, and rumours had it that this protest would be even bigger than the last one. As the last protest had a strong geeky undertone (with lots of in-joking that "normal" people probably wouldn't get), I decided to go downtown today to check it out for myself.
I arrived in front of the Stortinget (Parliament building) in Oslo 15-20 minutes after the protest had officially started. At first, it looked like there were actually fewer people than the count from February 10 (up to as many as 30 people). I figured that perhaps I was a bit early, but on the other hand it was difficult to tell the protesters from other people in the streets, and the streets were rather crowded. When people ran out of flyers to hand out, they started gathering, which made it easier to count heads. The turnout was better than my first impression.
Well known scientology critic, Andreas Heldal-Lund of xenu.net was supposed to be showing up, but I didn't spot him right away. Eventually, though, I found him handing out flyers alongside members of "Anonymous" in the streets:
I was a bit surprised to find that quite a few passers by knew what was going on. Even elderly people seemed to know about the protest, and they were very happy to see "youngsters" in the street protesting the organization. Lots of people also stopped to ask question, and in general, there seemed to be a genuine interest in the protest from the general public. "Epic win", as "Anonymous" would put it 🙂
I did spot a couple of people who seemed to be very defensive on behalf of Scientology. Maybe the organization sent out its own members to check out what was going on, like last time? But no harm was done. The "Anonymous" who were contacted by skeptical people were very polite, and pointed out that they were not protesting the religion as such. It was the organization's alleged evil actions, which involves fraud, blackmail, suppression of free speech, and so on. "Anonymous" was not there to take away anyone's right to believe in whatever they want.
Note that, when I refer to "Anonymous" above, I am referring to anyone who attended. Many of the people who showed up for today's protest are people who would normally consider themselves to be part of Anonymous, but since Anonymous is a loosely-knit group of people from around the world, anyone can basically choose to be a "member".
All in all, I think the protest was a great success. Hundreds of flyers were handed out to the public, and people showed a lot of interest in what was going on, and supported the cause.
Now, is the Church of Scientology guilty of all the illegal and immoral acts it is being accused of? That's up to you to decide! The point of this is to give people information so that they can make up their own minds. First check out the official site, and then look up sites like Heldal-Lund's Operation Clambake, or enturbulation.org. You can also find reports from protests around the world in the Enturbulation forums.
The Church of Scientology has actively been trying to keep information about itself off the internet, but it is clear that this has backfired big-time. I think the organization should have trusted people to make up their own minds when presented with both sides of the story.
So remember: Listen at both sides, and make up your own mind!
I did mention the demonstrations being semi-geeky, right?
- There are more photos of the Oslo protest in my photo album
- Check out the Web site and YouTube channel of former Scientologys Tory Christman (who was helped out of the organization by Andreas Heldal-Lund)
- Official CoS Web site
- Operation Clambake – "Undressing the Church of Scientology since 1996"
- Enturbulation.org – "A source for information on activism against the Scientology organization"