CLEARWATER – About 200 demonstrators from the Internet-based group “Anonymous” are marching outside the Church of Scientology building in downtown Clearwater as the church observes the birthday of its founder L. Ron Hubbard.
As they marched along downtown sidewalks, protestors chanted slogans such as “Religion is free, Scientology is not” and derisively sang “Happy Birthday” to Hubbard. Some wore party hats over their caps along with sunglasses and wigs to conceal their identities.
Many protestors say they fear retribution from Scientologists.
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The group is holding its second protest in as many months in downtown Clearwater, site of the church’s spiritual headquarters. The demonstration is timed to coincide with the church’s observance this weekend of the birthday of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, which was Thursday.
A few days ago, the church went to court twice to ask for a restraining order against Anonymous, but the request was denied both times.
Church spokeswoman Pat Harney has compared Anonymous to the Nazis and Ku Klux Klan.
The last protest, on Feb. 10, drew about 180 demonstrators. Similar protests were held worldwide to mark the birthday of Lisa McPherson, a Scientologist from Clearwater who died in 1995 while under the care of the organization. Clearwater police said there were no major incidents or arrests.
Thus far, today’s protest is no different.
Clearwater police on bicycles are monitoring the protest.
No one from the church has yet addressed the protestors or the media.