Our picket here in Toronto yesterday (Saturday, September 19) was a great success. The best part about it was having a chance to meet all the ARSCC Toronto members, headed up by ARSCC Toronto Grand Master Gregg Hagglund, of course, who seems to have Scientology completely under control here in Toronto.
Bob Minton and I arrived Friday evening, ready with cameras and picket signs in case the Scientologists met us in the airport. But instead, Gregg was there, holding a "XENU Air" sign to make sure we would recognize him. Apparently there had been two Scientologists there waiting to meet us, but when Gregg held up his "XENU Air" sign they turned around and ran out of the airport. We shook our heads, dismayed that the Scientologists had had such a low confront level and hoping this wasnít an indication of the kind of reception we would have the next day for our picket.
Following a Friday night dinner with part of the Toronto ARSCC underground, the next morning Artemis, a perfectly charming ARSCC Toronto member from Scotland, escorted us to the official meeting place for all the picketers. Being from Seattle, I was delighted to discover that the meeting place was a Starbucks. We all sat around sipping espresso until it was time to get our picket signs ready. By the time we got to the org, at 10 a.m., there were about twelve of us.
The Toronto org bookstore is right on the corner of Yonge Street and St. Maryís. They already had a table set up with an Emeter so they could give stress tests. A woman with a French accent was holding up an OCA graph and motioning for people to come over to her. She was trying to route people to the stress tester. Another woman was standing in front of the org entrance, which is next door to the bookstore, handing out brochures.
And lo and behold, shortly after we began our picket, out came Maureen OíKeefe! Bob was really touched that Maureen cared enough to come all the way up to Toronto just because she heard he was going to be there. But we were all surprised that apparently Scientology has become so weak in Toronto that Maureen had to fly up from Boston to take care of business, OSA-wise. Maureen stood outside the org entrance nearly all day long, primarily watching Bob, who engaged in a steady stream of verbal tech throughout our entire picket.
Grady and Jesse had ordered me not to let Bob out of my sight and had warned me that if Bob got into any trouble in Toronto, they would hold me personally responsible. So I was keeping a close eye on him, alert for any Scientologist to make a move toward him. I turned away for a moment to listen to one of the Scientologists telling an unsuspecting young man that he could continue to be a Catholic even if he joined Scientology, and when I turned around to check on Bob he had disappeared. I told Gregg, and he and I spent sevseral frantic moments searching the streets for Bob. Of course I was thinking the worst -- that the Scientologists had kidnapped him or something -- but soon Bob reappeared on the sidewalk, a big grin on his face, holding fistsful of Deutsche Marks and yelling, "Scientology claims I work for the German government! Get your Deutsche marks here! Hot off the presses from Germany!"
Apparently when he disappeared it had been into a nearby Bureau de Change to change some Canadian dollars into Deutsche Marks. He had a great time offering the local Scientologists Deutsche Marks in case they needed money for their morning coffee or anything. Maureen OíKeefe got an especially big kick out of Bobís Deutsche Marks caper.
There was a little dime store a few storefronts down from the org and we all passed this store every time we did our picket walk down the sidewalk. In the window was a particularly gruesome mask, the kind thatís made out of rubber and you can slip over your whole head. The face was kind of puke-green with big, ugly, rotten yellow teeth, huge white eyes with red pupils, big green ears sticking out, and a bone through the nose and a bird head sticking out of the forehead. It had a fringe of fake fur for a beard and then fake fur for hair. It was really, really ugly.
Bob admired that mask every time he passed it, and finally he just couldnít stand it any more. He ducked into the store and came out a few moments later holding this horrible-looking mask up in the air with one hand and his picket sign in the other, shouting, "This is the true face of Scientology!" All the people passing by got a big kick out of that one, although the Scientologists didnít seem as amused. All except for Maureen, who shook her head and chuckled when she saw it. After a while Bob began holding the mask with the same hand as his stick and shouting, "The head of L. Ron Hubbard sits on my stick!" Once in a while heíd say to a particular person walking by, "This is L. Ron Hubbard at his best! Go inside the Scientology org and read L. Ron Hubbard at his worst!"
The mask really was a great addition to our picket. Itís now part of our kit and weíll use it at all our future pickets.
Several ARSCC members handed out fliers during the picket. Artemis had some great ones which he handed out with individually wrapped mints, all the while saying, "Scientology costs a mint!" He gave all the credit for this brilliant marketing strategy to Kristi in San Francisco. I saw her in action myself when we picketed in San Francisco a few weeks ago, and she can definitely work a crowd better than anyone Iíve ever seen.
Another ARSCC member, Witling, handed out copies of Vaughnís report from a year ago when he detailed everything Scientology was doing to try to get all of the cats in the cat sanctuary killed. Gregg also handed out fliers, and we noticed that while a number of Scientology brochures ended up on the sidewalk, people were actually reading our literature as they walked away.
We broke for lunch at 12:30 and went around the corner to the place where ARSCC Toronto always has lunch when they picket -- a restaurant called "The Artful Dodger." By the time we broke for lunch there were sixteen of us, including Nan McLean, who joined us at about eleven. I have never met Nan before, although we have spoken a number of times over the phone. She is a tiny woman, maybe five feet tall if sheís lucky, but what a lot of spunk she has! Because of a restraining order of some kind, she is not allowed to say anything about Scientology. But she isnít prohibited from picketing, so picket she did, all day long with us, without ever saying a word, of course!
We all sat outside, pulling five tables together so we could all sit together. Several people called to wish us well, including Kady, Rod Keller and Jesse Prince, and they got to meet all the ARSCC Toronto people over the phone. I asked everyone how they happened to get involved in picketing Scientology, and I was surprised to discover that no one except Nan and myself had ever been personally involved in Scientology. All the rest had learned about the abuses of Scientology via the Internet and felt strongly enough about it that they have now become activists, doing their part to expose Scientologyís attempts to stifle free speech and destroy its membersí civil rights.
Each personís story was fascinating, but Richard told a story that I found particularly interesting. He had already heard about Scientology from a neighbor who had been in the Sea Org. He had been on the Appollo in the early seventies and had apparently gotten into a philosophical debate of some sort about some aspect of Scientology. This is strictly forbidden, of course, so the next morning when the Appollo docked in Morocco the man was summarily kicked off the ship. The problem was that he was dumped in Morocco with no passport and no identification whatsoever, so he had to spend three months in a Moroccan jail until the Canadian government was able to sort out his status and get him released.
But Richard said that what gave him the best insight into the true nature of Scientology was an experience he had several years later. He was sitting in a restaurant that happened to be across the street from one of the Scientology orgs that existed in Toronto at that time (apparently there used to be several orgs but Scientology has lost so much of its popularity in Toronto that it is now reduced to that one small storefront on Yonge Street).
A very attractive woman was sitting at the table next to his. Across from her was a man who could only be described as a loser -- paunchy, balding, greasy hair, wrinkled shirt and pants -- and this man was telling this woman a terribly sad story about all the bad things that had happened to him in his life. Occasionally the woman would interrupt the manís story, and Richard said he gradually became aware of the fact that the woman was interrupting the man to ask him about the status of his finances. One time she said, "How many bank accounts do you have?" A few moments later she asked, "Do you have a trust account, and can you access it?" Next she said, "What about credit cards? How many do you have?" From something she said Richard realized that she was a Scientologist and she was intent upon getting him to turn all of his money over to Scientology.
Richard said finally he couldnít stand it any more. He stood up and said to the man, "Donít you realize what sheís doing? All she wants is your money!" and stormed out of the restaurant. Richard said that because of that woman (who was undoubtedly a registrar, from what he described) when he later encountered Scientology on the Internet, he decided to become an active critic.
Everyone had different experiences that convinced them they should do something about Scientology. What I found extremely touching was that these are all people who are knowingly putting themselves in Scientologyís line of fire because they simply do not think Scientology should be allowed to treat people the way they do. None of these people consider themselves to be heroes. They are just doing what they think is right.
One thing I forgot to mention is that the group of Scientologists who were our "handlers" at the org all sat at a couple of tables next to us at the Artful Dodger. Bob pulled our waitress aside as we were nearly done with our lunch and told her that when the Scientologists asked for their check, she should just tell them, "Mr. Minton has taken care of your bill."
I watched when they called the waitress over, and I could tell when she told them that Bob had paid their bill for them because their eyes all got wide and several of them glanced over at him. As they filed past us to leave, one of the Scientologists caught Bobís eye and said, "Thank you." Another one gave him the high sign. The rest didnít say a word. I guess they just didnít know what to do when the Number One Suppressive Person on the Planet did something nice for them. Who knows? Maybe it gave them some food for thought.
After lunch we went back and had a great time picketing for the rest of the afternoon. Maureen finally got her act together and brought out stacks of fliers about Bob and me with Bobís mug shots from when he was arrested in Boston. (We already posted the flier last night to alt.binaries.scientology and Rod Fletcher already posted the text to a.r.s. so I wonít repeat it here.) It was a real three-ring circus in the afternoon, with the picketers handing out our fliers, the Scientologists handing out the fliers about us, and Bob holding up the True Face of Scientology mask and waving Deutsche Marks. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, and Maureen seemed to be having a good time as well.
I spent a long time chatting with a Toronto policeman who happened by and wanted my opinion about Scientology. I was happy to oblige, of course. I showed him the flier about Bob and me. He read the whole thing and just as he finished it Bob happened to come up. I introduced them, and the policeman said to Bob, "Well, you seem like a nice guy to me. And as far as these things theyíre saying about you, I guess you have to be pretty crazy to make the kind of money you did. I wish youíd teach me how to be that crazy!"
All in all, everyone thought the picket went extremely well. I was particularly pleased that no one assaulted Bob, thanks (I was sure) to my vigilance in guarding him all day long. I did have one close call, when a heavyset Scientology woman in a purple shirt began heckling Bob, yelling questions at him like, "How many times have you been arrested?" and shouting things about "adultery" and "psychiatric medications." In Canada people arenít allowed to heckle picketers like that, so I ran over and got a couple of the policemen who were gathered to keep an eye on us. They went over and got her to knock it off, and after that we were able to finish our picket in peace.
Afterwards, Bob and I had dinner at our hotel with the entire ARSCC Toronto, and afterwards we sat in the bar chatting until we were all too tired to stay up any longer. As we were walking everyone out to their cars we discovered several Scientologists scurrying away from the windows of the hotel. I tried to talk to one of them but for some reason he refused to have a conversation with me. All I wanted to know was his name. I mean, I was willing to give him mine, after all. But hey, maybe he was just too shy.
There are lots and lots of photos of the picket, the members of ARSCC Toronto, and our Scientology handlers on alt.binaries.scientology. Actually, Bob posted 70 of them to a.r.s. by accident, but Rod Keller taught him how to cancel them so hopefully most of you werenít inconvenienced by this inadvertent faux pas. Itís just that Grady just gave him this new auto posting software and he's just learning how to use it..... but anyway, check out alt.binaries and enjoy!
By the way, everyone decided that from now on we should have an annual big Auditorís Day picket in Toronto. So mark your calendars: March 13 -- Los Angeles, September 19 -- Toronto, and December 5 -- Clearwater.
Oh, and maybe we should also have a Bob Minton Memorial Arrest picket every year in Boston on September 10..... nah, just kidding. I donít think Maureen could handle having all of us on her home turf.
Stacy Brooks Young