Anonymous vs Scientology, the London Protests
Showed up to Blackfriars, minutes from the Scientology headquarters, hooked up with the boys, smoked a cig (initially with my mask on... BAD IDEA) then wandered up the road and FUCK ME there's already about 200 people there.
It was the perfect internet anarchist protest. We shouted slogans. People with ghetto blasters played announcements. We shouted at THEM. People with megaphones addressed the crowd. Sometimes we cheered and clapped, sometimes we shouted "TL;DR!"
One guy in a full-on V outfit made an announcement in a very dull and proper fashion that none of us could hear properly. We were busy heckling him (anonymous has no problem with criticising anonymous), when he reaches the end of his speech and presses play on a boombox.
RICK ASTLEY: NEVER GONNA GIVE YOU UP
The crowd went fucking wild.
500 people rick-rolling the UK Scientology head office. It was at this point I saw the corners of the cops' mouths twitch into smiles as they realised it was ok: we were from the internets.
There were numerous demands for "CAKE!" - Shortly followed by much more enthusiastic cries of "THE CAKE IS A LIE!" ... Then someone came round with cakes, prompting happy exclamations that "THE CAKE IS REAL!"
A chant of "This is religion!" (pointing to the left) "THIS IS A CULT!" (pointing to the scientology building), repeating - I didn't ever work out what the original point of this was, other than to underscore that scientology is not a religion, but then the mounted police showed up to herd us out of the road so that traffic could pass.
At which point, it became "THIS IS A HORSE!" (point at horse) "THIS IS A CULT!" (point at scientolgy building)
"HORSE!" (point) "CULT!" (point) "HORSE! ... CULT! ... HORSE! ... CULT!"
... and several renditions of the "I love horses, best of all the animals" song.
A friend had a banner with "SCIENTOLOGY MAKES ME A SAD PANDA!" which the media snapped a lot, we chanted it for a bit, then started demanding to know why Xenu/Tom Cruise/Scientology hated pandas.
The irreverent nature of it all kept everyone, police included, smiling, big-time :)
At the Blackfriars site, though, while a great attendance, and the scientology lot looking very uncomfortable, there were precious few non-protesters around. The media coverage was good, but it was an area of town that's pretty dead on a sunday - the parts of london in which Big Business deals become ghost towns at the weekend, particularly sundays.
After a while, our lot decided to go To The Boozer.
We packed up and headed off to go to the Tottenham Court Road offices, by way of a pub. At the time, we were early-leavers (fuck it, you know, sunday, pub) and were in two minds as to whether or not there would be many people arriving at the TCR site, which, unlike the Blackfriars office, is just a 1-unit recruitement building.
So, we travelled, got cash out, went and knocked back a few pints and a few shots and as it neared the announced time to hit the TCR site, we started to see anon stream past - V masks and banners slowly increasing. "Shit - they ARE coming", we thought.
We left the pub. As we rounded the corner, we realised that while we'd been chucking a few drinks back, a good 3/4 of the Blackfriars lot had fucking accumulated outside the TCR site!
The sound of the crowd, chants, shouts, drummers, loud-hailers, all sprung up as we turned the corner. Very well set up police presence, they'd let anon take over one side of the road, but behind a strict police line, but the cops were (as I've always seen in london) organised, calm and polite - pointing out where we should join the protest, when it was safe to cross, even (possibly aware that in masks, we couldn't see fuck all, sometimes).
A couple of us stopped to chat outside the door to a shop before joining the main body of the crowd and after the shop staff pleasantly asked us if we could move aside, a policeman also caught our eye and, again, politely, asked if we could move down and explained why.
Very professional, calm, reasonable and respectful. Absolutely top marks for the cops on every single count. Great lads. Quite a few sneaky smiles in evidence, too ;)
The TCR gathering was very different in nature to the Blackfriars protest - eeeeeversoslightly more threatening. There was an air of anger that hadn't been present at the first site, not violent or nasty, but powerfully more intimidating. The scientologists, as at Blackfriars did not dare stray far from their door, despite the police presence (which was much more visible).
At one point, someone in the building next door, a casino, put up a makeshift sign:
... to much applause.
The TCR protest was a lot more like a football match, more solid sloganistic shouting, taking lots of football motifs and inserting scientology terms "de de de-de-de, de-de-de-DE... XENU!" being a constant, "you're a CULT! and you know you are, you're a CULT! and you know you are" etc.
There was less Rick-Rolling than before, but some did indeed happen, along with obligatory Fresh Prince of Bel Air action, but again, less taken up by the whole crowd.
One of the more enthralling and intimidating chants that kept occuring was ripped off 300:
"ANONYMOUS! WHAT IS YOUR PROFESSION?"
500 people: "AROOUGH! ARROOUGH! ARROUUGH!"
Throughout, the bizarre nature of it all, the surreality of memes that half the crowd didn't know, but much more surprisingly, the other half DID know maintained an air of light-heartedness and good nature that kept the mileu from ever getting too surly.
I can't remember the source, but there's some sci-fi story I've read where the conclusion reads along the lines of "They could withstand the fiecest of our weapons, they could defeat us intellectually, but in the end, I think they died of sheer culture shock" - the looks on the faces of the scientologists when faced with a crowd in which a lone voice shouts:
"I HEAR TOM CRUISE HATES MUDKIPS!"
... how do you fight that?
How do you, ideologically speaking, defeat a crowd that is enthusiastically demanding that you "DO A BARREL ROLL! DO A BARREL ROLL!!" ?
I found myself very pleased about being british. There was zero attempt by the scientologists to engage the crowd, they knew fine well that they were not going to get anywhere that way and kept the police between them and us, but it was very polite and proper and only the sliiiightest bit mob-mentality, but that bit was nicely defrayed when someone grabbed a loud-hailer and shouted something a bit offensive, they were booed down with shouts of "FAIL!" and for every moment of vague menace, there was something hilarious.
The protest was peaceful, the police were respectful, and London pwned the world in attendance.
[shitty media coverage - WE R TERRORISTS LOL]
[aussies doing their thing] [and again]
With thanks and apologies to those people whose images / video I've appropriated and not credited.