More than 70 protestors gathered on Ethel Street in central Birmingham on Saturday 12th, wearing distinctive masks and costumes to protest against the abusive policies of the Church of Scientology
This was the third global protest organised by Anonymous in response to the Church of Scientology’s attacks on internet free speech . The theme this time was the Disconnection policy, which requires Scientologists to break off communication with family or friends who criticise their involvement .
A march along New Street was ruled out by police, apparently because there were not enough officers on-duty to police it.
Most protestors hid their identities because of the Church’s reputation for harassing opponents . During the six hour demonstration, they waved placards urging Scientology members to reconnect with their families. They also handed out leaflets, shared cake and bombarded the Scientology recruitment centre with songs and chants. A contingent of protestors offered “free hugs” to passing shoppers.
Press statements from the Church of Scientology have called Anonymous a “terrorist group” . A spokesman was quoted in the Birmingham Mail saying “Anonymous is perpetrating religious hate crimes against Churches of Scientology and individual Scientologists for no reason other than religious bigotry.”
Local people who had been affected by Scientology came forward to talk to Anonymous, including one ex-member whose mother – still a Scientologist – disconnected from the rest of her family in 1989 and has not spoken to them since. Another man who had formerly been involved in the Church claimed that he had been subjected to “training routines” where he had to yell at and insult a complete stranger. He considered these techniques to be “brainwashing”.
Some debate did take place between the protestors and Scientologists . Anonymous has announced plans to protest again on Saturday May 10th and activism discussion boards can be found through britlulz.com .
Photo credit: greenleavesANON
 http://youtube.com/watch?v=K4BQdr0kHK8 (YouTube upload of local news coverage from February)
 “Demo Against Church Move” Birmingham Mail http://www.birminghammail.net/2008/04/14/demo-against-church-move-97319-20761404/
 http://youtube.com/watch?v=rHFRbNH71pQ video footage from the protest
The theme of the protest was “Operation Reconnect”
Protestors on New Street