ST. PETERSBURG — A Tampa Police Department bomb squad detonated a suitcase containing a Bible, clothing and personal items behind a Church of Scientology building.
The Church of Scientology reported a suspicious package behind its building at 336 1st Ave. N. in St. Petersburg, police say.
Third and Fourth Streets are partially blocked and nearby buildings have been evacuated, police say.
Police summoned the Tampa Police Department bomb squad, said St. Petersburg Police Department spokesman Bill Proffitt.
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The squad blew up the package just after 5 p.m. Proffit said it contained a Bible, clothing and personal items.
The report of the suspicious package came this afternoon at about the same time Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge W. Douglas Baird denied an injunction the church sought to stop the Internet-based group Anonymous from protesting outside Scientology’s headquarters in Clearwater this weekend.
Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Linda R. Allan denied a similar request Thursday.
In the case Allan ruled on, the church was using a process usually used by women who are in fear of their abusive husbands or boyfriends. The church wanted all protestors to remain at least 500 feet away from church structures and officials.
Allan noted that the Church of Scientology is a corporation, not a person, and that the process the church’s attorneys were seeking to stop the protesters is by law reserved for a “person who is the victim of repeat violence,” according to a copy of her ruling.
The church’s tact with Judge Baird was slightly different.
The bulk of the second petition was the same as the one Allan reviewed — alluding to threatening anonymous YouTube videos, for instance. But this time Scientology attorneys said the protestors, by standing at the entrances of church buildings, would “chill” church events and services, causing Scientologists not to attend. This, the church said, constituted a violation of church members’ Constitutional rights.
Baird noted there was no evidence the 26 individuals named as members of Anonymous in the church’s petition were responsible for any threats or wrongful acts against the church. And they hadn’t been informed properly of the injunction the church was seeking.
“Under these circumstances, when threats from unknown individuals are received, or when incidents such as the various YouTube or MySpace postings are interpreted as threatening, the matter is more properly one for local law enforcement rather than the constitutionally extreme remedy sought by injunction without notice against these individuals,” his ruling said.
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