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Clearwater Picket
And McPherson Memorial
5 December 1998
(as posted to alt.religion.scientology on 6 December 1998)

Saturday's picketing started off at 10:00 in the morning. Apart from a couple of OSA photographers and a pubescent uniformed "security guard" on a bicycle, the streets were barren of Scientologists. Windows all had shutters, blinds, or paper obscuring them, and only rarely did I see people stealing furtive glances through Venetian blinds.

The picketers split up into two groups: one took the Fort Harrison, and the other (the one in which I spent the morning) gathered in front of the former Clearwater Bank building. Response from the non-Scientologist public was extremely heartening; there was an almost continuous barrage of cheers, honks, thumbs-ups, and other signs of support. Notable things I heard shouted from the cars that passed: "You're doing the right thing!" "We want them out!" "They're a murdering cult!"

One of the beautiful sights I saw that day: several city buses driving around bearing huge advertisements for www.xenu.net on their sides, accompanied by various anti-Scientology slogans. These buses, I'm told, had routes all over Clearwater, spreading entheta to the entire city, like giant mobile picket signs. Brilliant!

Occasionally, I did see one or two Scientologists. At one side of the former bank building, I saw two Scientologist women poke their head out the door, so I stuck around to see what they would do. (The sign I was carrying bore two messages, so I turned it so they were faced by the side which read, "Think for yourself -- why isn't LOVE on the Tone Scale?") They looked down the street, then up the street towards where I was. Their eyes widened, and they ducked back inside and slammed the door. I was reminded of the very first sentence of Issue 54 of Ability Magazine, where Hubbard said, "That which a person can confront, he can handle." Apparently, Scientologists in Clearwater have lost the ability to confront their critics, so how can they ever hope to handle us and make us go away for good?

And that sort of thing continued. One of the funniest things I saw that morning was a group of five Sea Orgers pelting down a street with fear in their eyes, pursued by a single picketer with a camera, and pounding furiously on a locked door to be let in. As Hubbard said in that same issue of Ability, "It is a truism that one never solves anything by running away from it." With behaviour like that, Scientology will never solve their public image problem in Clearwater!

Now, I have to admit, I've read Hubbard's description of the Clam engram, and how making the snapping motion with thumb and forefinger will cause pain in a human's jaw, but I've never really believed that Scientologists really believed something that absurd. So one of the many times a particular green-shirted OSA photographer pointed his digital camera at me, I held my hand next to my head and started making the gesture. To my utter surprise, he immediately pivoted around and started snapping pictures of someone else! Apparently, that gesture has as much power over Scientologists as a cross is purported to have over a vampire. (Amazing that with as much ability as Scientology is supposed to give them, they end up with such incredible -- and ridiculous -- weaknesses.)

They had several plain white vans painted with "Happy Holidays" and several non-religious holiday symbols (wreaths, bows, candy canes, and so forth) which were driven around by OSA personnel. When stopped at traffic lights, they sat completely immobile, staring straight ahead. When they had to turn onto a street with picketers, they turned without looking at where they had to go! It was fortunate that they didn't cause an accident by such dangerous driving habits.

Just before we left at noon, we noticed that a rented moving van had pulled up at the side of the former bank building, and they were loading things onto it. So naturally, we had to go take a look. At first, they brought out several five-gallon plastic pails, which seemed to be leaking some evil-looking yellowish congealed substance. It reminded me of bacon fat, but might have been some kind of gruel. Next, they brought out a huge translucent plastic tub, filled with what looked like RICE CAKES. I really hope they were merely taking out the garbage, and not loading the truck with Sea Org dinners.

About this time, they were trying to fill up Flag buses with people -- presumably to take them to lunch -- and it was obvious that they were trying to manoeuvre the streets in such a manner that they would avoid seeing any picketers. So some of us went up to one of the streets behind the Fort Harrison, and sure enough, along came a Flag bus. But through the tinted windows, we could see at least two hundred Sea Orgers packed in like dorm students stuffing a phone booth -- truly less than standing room only. Surely that had to be some kind of safety violation; if so, Scientology is quite willing to break the law (and endanger its people's safety) in order to keep them from seeing anything that contradicts Scientology's official line. Returning to that Ability Magazine, "When individuals are restrained from confronting life they accrue a vast ability to have difficulties with it."

After lunch, we returned to picket the Fort Harrison. I'm sure that whichever Scientologist was assigned to prevent the picket by pulling construction permits has landed in a lot of trouble for the oversight that created a window of time in which it was permissible for us to picket.

The police presence was strong; I counted at least 15 uniformed officers, and more who drove by in cars and vans (and one K-9 unit -- Harry, you're a good dog!) I didn't even try to get an accurate count of picketers, but I'd estimate we started off with something around 30 or 40. A couple of locals came out to join us, even some people who hadn't heard about it, were just passing through, and thought it was a great idea. Again, there were many shows of support from the people driving by. I wondered what the OSA photographers thought about the fact that we received so much support, and not one bypasser yelled any disagreement with us.

The media was out in force; television cameras, newspaper and magazine reporters galore. Naturally, there were Scientology officials giving their point of view, and if I'm not mistaken, I saw a very tense-looking Brian Anderson wearing eyeglasses. Time to return to that same issue of Ability, wherein Hubbard said, "Eyeglasses, nervous twitches, tensions, all of these things stem from an unwillingness to confront." Perhaps most of the Scientologists at Flag really could have confronted, but Brian Anderson no longer can, and he has dragged the entire Mecca of Standard Tech down into his degradation?

Indeed, as Hubbard wrote immediately before that, "The whole trick of somebody telling you 'It's all bad over there,' is contained in the fact that he is trying to keep you from confronting something and thus make you retreat from life." If the Sea Org was told to stay inside because it was "all bad out there" while the picketers were present, then whoever told them that was trying to keep them from confronting. Are they being sabotaged by their own management?

From out of the garage wafted the strains of Christmas Carols. Most of them were secular in nature -- Deck the Halls, White Christmas, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, I think even piano music from "It's a Charlie Brown Christmas" -- but there was an occasional song where the name "Christ" was actually mentioned. Pretty ironic coming from a religion whose leader once said,

"Somebody, somewhere on this planet, back about 600 BC, found some pieces of R6. And I don't know how they found it, either by watching madmen or something, but since that time they have used it, and it became what is known as Christianity. Ahhh, the man on the cross. There was no Christ."

Flag vans -- though not the "Happy Holidays" ones -- kept driving in and out of the garage, halting the picketers as they entered and exited. I thought it was strange that it was always the same four, and often they seemed completely empty (though occasionally they would have people in them). So after a line of four of them had gone in, I stood at the entrance to the garage, even after the police let people start walking again, and watched as one van after another simply turned around and came back out, halting the line again. So Brian Anderson, the leader who tried to drag his entire flock down into his inabilities, the man who promised that Scientology would not interfere with the picketers, could not even bring himself keep that promise. In Scientology, does it mean nothing to give one's word? Isn't honesty considered to be a desirable trait to Scientologists? Apparently, the answer is "no".

Xenu made a surprise appearance, carrying what appeared to be the actual OTVIII notebook. (I say "appeared", because I have never seen the real thing to know what it looks like, but its style was very similar to the authentic OTIII notebook I've seen.) The media loved him, and immediately swarmed over to take pictures. (The picketers also loved him, many of them giving their cameras to others so they could have their pictures taken with the Great Galactic Overlord.)

Two other picketers, a German man and an American woman (I'll let them tell the story more fully if they want to) wrapped themselves in the flags of their respective countries and embraced, symbolically rejecting Scientology's attempts to drive a wedge between the two countries.

At 7 PM, we began a memorial service for Lisa McPherson. As we held it, Scientologists noisily continued constructing a lighted "HAPPY HOLIDAYS" sign on the front of the Fort Harrison. When we began, the "L" and "DAYS" were not yet lit, and two lights on the "I" were missing near the bottom, so their sign looked for all the world like "HAPPY HO !" (I shall refrain from making the obvious Helena Kobrin jokes.)

On the grounds of the Presbyterian church next door to the Fort Harrison (because their construction permits were again in effect in front of the hotel itself), we held candles and flowers as a bagpiper played. Gregg Hagglund, wearing his priestly vestments, read C L Kates' poem in memory of Lisa. It was an emotional moment; even a couple of TV camerapersons were observed with tears on their cheeks. After the poem was read, and the piper played again, the wreath was carried to the back of the Fort Harrison -- as the news reported it, "near the room where Lisa McPherson was believed to have stayed while at the hotel" -- and the mourners passed by in single file, laying down a flower at the base of the wreath and extinguishing our candles as Lisa's life was extinguished by Scientology's neglect.

Scientology provided the news crews with a written statement, accusing the picketers of "using" Lisa McPherson. "None of them loved Lisa while she was alive," it stated. Dell Liebreich, Lisa's aunt, responded on camera, "All of these people loved her much more than Scientology ever did. Scientology let her die."

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