CLEARWATER – Who are these masked men who’ve taken up the cause of taking down the Church of Scientology?
The church says they’re cyber-terrorists who’ve expanded their protest beyond the World Wide Web to streets all over the world.
“We are not terrorists, we are peaceful demonstrators,” insisted one protestor, who declined to give his name. “Not a single person got arrested during the entire worldwide protest — nothing. But three Scientologists got arrested this last time.”
The war of words has escalated between the group that calls themselves Anonymous and the Church of Scientology since the first protest in February.
At one of the church’s global headquarters, more than 100 marchers circled the blocks, spreading an anti-Scientology message.
“They’re honking, they’re waving at us,” one exclaimed. “They love us!”
But the church does not. They say Anonymous has mailed death threats, bomb threats, and vandalized their property around the world.
In a DVD release, Scientologists claim the cyber group is dangerous, and is hiding behind its anonymity. Church leaders say most members of Anonymous know nothing about their religion, but have made them a target of hate.
“Death will come, death will come, death will come,” repeated a chant allegedly made by an Anonymous member on the Church’s voicemail.
Before this protest, the Church of Scientology tried to get an injunction against Anonymous, but that was denied by a Clearwater judge. Anonymous says this has fueled them to continue their crusade.
“The biggest misconception about our protest is anti-Scientology,” offered a protestor who gave only the name ‘Joe.’ “We’re anti the Church of Scientology, which is forcing people to practice, not letting them leave the church, and committing these crimes.”
The church says the internet movement has been fueled by rumors; Anonymous says the church is harboring secrets. But as neither side backs down from the confrontation, the question remains — What does Anonymous hope to accomplish?
“If nothing else, I want them to acknowledge the things they’ve done, and at least start to change,” added protestor ‘David.’
Anonymous says it plans to protest every month, if it has to.