Go back to main Scientology in Canada page
Date: Mon, 12 May 1997 12:35:25 -0600
Subject: The Toronto Picket Report
The Toronto Picket Report
1. Toronto Org Scouted on Wednesday May 7, 1997:
I drove in to Toronto so as to arrive at the lunch hour. The org was not as I remembered from the mid 70s. It was as dead as a doornail. The displays were sunlight yellowing and the staff inept, tho' polite. I asked for a copy of HOM and they had to dig it up for me from another location.
The org is a multi story building, about 8 or 10, I think. The upper floors have offices and living quarters. The upper windows display a jumbled mess of odds and sods up against them. Bags, bits of clothing, flotsam and jetsam. Really unkempt looking.
The street-level facing is a bit rundown except for Brothers Restaurant, which is in the middle third of the face of the building. (I recommend Brothers for competently-prepared and well-served general eating. The staff do not appear to like their neighbours much.)
The left half of the org is an office-like entrance with a little sign advertising jobs available at low pay and high adventure. They don't mention brainsucking.
The right half of the org is the public section for body routing and book sales. On my visit it was deserted except for one Sea Org gal hanging up some decorations and two guys kinda middle-aged and bland in personality.
After they dug up HOM they were dismayed that all I wanted to do was confirm something I had been told. I said I wanted to check the 'Source' of the clam tales. This did not make them happy. I read the Clam stuff, handed them back the book and left. They were terrible sales people, but polite enough. As I left I noted the incredible 50s style 'B Horror Movie' designed anti-psych posters in the window and the ad for the 47th Anniversary of Dianetics Celebration at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre for May 10 at 7:30 pm.
2. Notices of Demonstrations Filed on Thursday:
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees that you can demonstrate your point of view or protest anothers, provide this is done in an appropriate way. In Toronto that includes filing a Notice of Demonstration. On this Notice you must provide a lot of information, even proposed signs or banners.
The police want this kind of thing: Name, phone, and address of the filer [Mine]. Name of organisation [Independent]. Number of maximum proposed demonstrators . Duration [3 to 5 pm]. Location [696 - 700 Yonge St]. Object of Demonstration [the Church of Scientology]. Purpose [To protest the various unethical practices of the management of the Church of Scientology].
On the second Notice I listed the Queen Elizabeth Theatre from 6:30 to 9:30 pm the same day. The police want this stuff so the watch commanders know about potential trouble spots and if they need to set up barriers and other logistics. Also, in Toronto, the object of your ire gets a copy in advance. Since I had posted on the net I wanted to organise a Protest, I figured the Co$ were on the lookout anyways.
3. Religious Sanctuary and Residence Attacked on Friday.
Now, I have *no* idea who these characters were, but late Friday night, four brave souls in dark clothing and travelling in a dark red minivan pulled up to the front of my residence, which is the Sanctuary of the Temple I minister for, and egged the front with about a dozen. My neighbour's security camera caught the action, but not the license plate or any faces. The police say, oh well. Five minutes with a hose and the traces were gone. Egg shells went into the composter.
TWO PICKETS ON SATURDAY
4. First Picket from 3:30 to 5 pm.
I picked the late afternoon for the first picket at the Toronto Org itself because I knew that the foot traffic at that time was high on a Saturday.
I met with my two co-demonstrators at the Brothers Restaurant at 2:30 pm. I had to, of course, go right past the org to get into the restaurant.
The org was all abuzz. They had 5-6 people, cameras and displays ready and waiting, and were milling about even at 2:30.
My fellow demonstrators wish to remain anonymous at this time, and I can respect that. I shall refer to them as Artemis and D'Artangnan.
We conferred for a while and reaffirmed the ground rules and discussed some of the advice I had received and they had read on ars. Gandhi Tech was to be the rule of the day. The flyers would be offered to passersby, but no chasing would be done. If the CoS wanted street debates they weren't going to get it. The sidewalk in front of the org is about 8 feet wide so if passersby had questions we would move to the curb side. Flyers could not be given to cars that stopped (if any) unless it was a taxi. If a passerby dropped a flyer we would pick it up. Flyer recipients were to be thanked. Artemis and I would give out flyers and D'Artangnan would be doing most of the curbside chats (for reasons that will soon be obvious).
At 3:15 we repaired to the local parking facility where I had the Picketing supplies. I had assembled a selection of signs to match the requests of prospective participants. The signs were all 30" x 20" bright yellow form core with black 3" high lettering in Helvetica Bold Italics. (Clearly visible as a sign for at least 300 feet and the content was readable from about a 50 feet.)
Artemis chose a sign that had: What 'Church' Intimidates and Sues Maliciously? and: What 'Church' Persecutes and Frames Its Critics?
My sign read: Scientology: DANGEROUS UFO CULT
Canada has only one CRIMINALLY CONVICTED CHURCH: Scientology!
D'Artangnan carried: Lisa Mcpherson: Killed by her 'Church'?
IS Scientology Practising Medicine Without a Licence?
Each of us were 'up' on the topics we displayed so as to respond adequately and knowledgeably to the questions of the passersby. We figured the Lisa sign would draw a lot of questions and it did.
I also had 250 of the Roland Xenu flyers in packets of 50. (No eggs all in one basket.) I had the flyers in a paper-carrier bag I wore. Other equipment I carried in belt pouches were a camera, microrecorder, spare film and batteries and a cell phone. I also had $XXX dollars in bail money on hand, just in case (Thank you Ted.)
Accoutered and ready, we returned the one block back to the org. We carried our signs inverted on the way there because I didn't secure a 'Parade' permit ($$$). We did catch them a bit off guard by starting 30 minutes later than on the Notice. One Scieno spotted us about 50 feet out and dashed inside to rally their resources. They started scrambling out the front doors of both halves of the org.
They immediately were in our faces with cameras and video recorders. In fact they had two videocameras. One or the other taped us during the entire demo.
Artemis and D'Artangnan were immediately approached by one woman in her early forties, (an OT7) for their names, which they declined to give. When she asked me I told her mine. (See tape transcript in a separate post titled: Toronto: Reverend Buttocks Blows Hard.)
I had it on good advice that the good Reverend Buttnor (GoldenAss) or Buttocks, or his representative assigned to 'handle' me, would immediately try to dominate the situation verbally. I was treated to the Rev'd up Rev hisself. What a maroon! (See other post.) I had determined to engage him very briefly and not be distracted from what we were there to do: display displeasure and inform the public. We weren't there to do a public debate with the Org staff. (More good advice.)
5. The Picket Proceeds.
After a short confront with the Rev the picket proceeded. I did take some photos which I will try to web later this week. The public LOVED IT! Typical comments were:
About Time! Keep it up! I hate these wackos! Could I have another flyer for my friend? You're against them are ya; well way to go! Thank you for this, etc.
All I had to do to get a flyer snatched from my hand was to make eye contact and smile broadly. On more than one occasion a passerby would blow past with that 'you are invisible to me and I don't want to be bothered' glazed-eye look and then a moment later the signage I carried about UFO CULT would register and they would turn around, come back, and ask for a flyer. I had one lady, whose hands were full, who asked me to fold it and stick it in one of her bags.
People were crossing through the four lane traffic from across Yonge Street to get a flyer. Bicyclists would stop. Cars did not honk or stop, but we got too many 'thumbs up' Acks from motorists to keep track of.
There seems to be a very low opinion of the Co$ in Toronto.
Of course Org staff were trying to chase down anyone who they could to take their stuff which consisted of a Freedom Mag, and invite to the 47 Celebration and a one page DA of me, CAN and the Internet sweetened by Religious Freedom and abuse of Free speech bullshit. (See other Post.)
For those of you unfamiliar with Toronto there are a few interesting public conventions you need to know. First, this is a really clean city. Lots of public waste baskets and many separated for recyclables. These are used a lot. Second, experienced city dwellers have learned the art of dodging the handouts to a high degree. Third, if a passerby takes a handout they only do so, for the most part, because they *want* it. Fourth, once a passerby has taken a flyer, they very rarely will discard it by dropping it or wadding it up and tossing it on the ground. If they are going to dump it after they have read it on the street, then they use the waste baskets.
By 5 pm the street was littered with Co$ discards, many crumpled and contemptuously dropped. This is a big insult. Not one RX special was wasted and we went through 150 in 90 minutes. Given that we all spent some time answering questions from the public, I would say that when I was trolling for recipients I averaged a flyer every 30 seconds, most eagerly received and often, happily snatched or asked for!
One sorry Org specimen, a short stocky dark-haired, loud-mouthed guy kept carping from a doorway, "Three? Only Three?" Yukka, Yukka, Yuk.
Unfortunately this lump couldn't count.
There were more than 200 demonstrators, falling into three classes:
Highly visible and active (the guys with the signs), active but transient, (the happy recipients of the RX flyers) and vocal transients. (The universally positive comments of transients who did not want a flyer but wanted to add their two cents.)
All three of us spent considerable time answering questions but especially D'Artangnan. On more than one occasion he had small audiences of three or even four people listening to the facts on poor Lisa. Co$ staffers would invade these groups to try and counter-propaganda, but from what I saw D'Artangnan handled them well.
[I hope that both Artemis and D'Artangnan will post their own 'KR's, but if not that is ok.]
I did have one chap who almost caused a ruckus. He had taken a flyer from us and gone on his way. Then he read it and came back to ask me some questions. He wanted to know if this stuff was true. I told him, no, it was all an artificially and deliberately created secret mythology. He said he knew that it was BS, but was it *my* BS or did the Co$ teach this? I told him that it was not verbatim, but a paraphrase, as the Co$ was trying to keep it secret using Copyright and Tradesecrets, but if he didn't believe me to ask the Co$.
Well he thought that was a good idea and approached one of the counterflyer gals. (NOTE: the Toronto org almost exclusively used women for their interventionist countermeasures. One guy was on videocamera for about 30 minutes.)
He waves the RX flyer at her and asks, "is this truly taught by the Co$?" The woman refuses to answer and says he should ask one of the other ladies, pointing at the OT7. This guy persists. The Gal starts to get panicky and shrill about how he should go ask this other lady. This guy is getting the brush off and he doesn't like it so he is getting louder and more annoyed. I see the Co$ staff *letting* this develop into a confrontation. They could see this was trouble brewing and just watched. So I intervened. I told the guy to ease off as this lady genuinely believed that if she saw this stuff she would be hurt or even die and he should ask that lady over there, who had permission to see this. So the guy cools down, says he is sorry for getting carried away and goes over to the OT7 and says, "Is this stuff true?" The OT7 says "No! It's from the Internet and the Internet is all lies!" At this the guy starts to laugh and leaves saying, "So it is true, you people are being had!"
I had a pair of lady tourists from Germany ask for a flyer. They were young, blonde, in their early thirties, obviously sisters and had looks to die for. They said they hated the Co$, it was hurting Germany and was undemocratic. A Co$ staff lady heard that and said something I didn't catch in German. The two ladies laughed and said in English to me, "That stupid woman thinks we are Fascists, which is stupid, the Scientologists are the Fascists. They make propaganda just like they show us in school that the Nazis did. They should get out of Germany", etc.
During the whole picket the police came by about every 15 minutes to take a peek; that felt reassuring. When we started there was a Bicycle Beat Cop parked across the street for at least the first 10 or 15 minutes. I think he was satisfied things were going to be 'quiet' and went off.
At 5 pm sharp we stopped the protest by inverting our signs and leaving. We went back to my vehicle and dumped out stuff. (BTW the new ARSCC (WDNE) Mark 47 Hummers are a real bitch to park. Gas guzzlers too.) We went back to Brothers and had a bite to eat and analyzed our performance and shared our experiences.
6. Second Picket at 6:45 to 8:30 pm.
The Toronto Org rented the Queen Elizabeth Theatre at the Canadian National Exhibition Grounds for the Official 47th Anniversary Celebration of the release of Dianetics. The Theatre seats 1300. Base rent is $2650. Plus taxes (15%), plus union stage hands and required in-house equipment rentals. (And more 15% taxes.) Also the T.O. had pretty costly glossy postcard-sized invites printed by the hundreds and had advertised and laid out quite a large spread of free food and Beverages (non alcoholic). We didn't see the food but I imagine it featured a rice and beans salad, of course. Minimum cost for all this would have to be at least $5000 Canadian. Likely as high as $8,000. And it was wasted.
The event was a dud. A complete PR and staging disaster.
We arrived at 6:45 and parked in the one open lot. We then proceeded the block over to the front of the theatre. The theatre has a U-shaped driveway so that vehicles can drive in and disgorge occupants at the entrance and then swing right back out onto the street.
We could not picket inside the U as that is private property, even though it is not posted, and the CNE Security have the power to issue some pretty stiff tickets for trespass. We stayed on the sidewalk at the open end of the U at the street. Standard 4 foot wide walk and about 50 feet worth of it in the U.
When we got there at 6:45 about 30 clams and guests were milling about outside the theatre entrance talking and smoking (yech) Kools. Most had familiar faces from one time or another earlier at the Org Demo. I assumed twice as many were already inside to set an initial attending figure at this point of 100 max. Reverend Buttocks was out front, pacing and attended by a herd of about 10 kids aged 8 to 12. As soon as he noticed we had showed his already sulky demeanor became an absolute black glower. The kids were pointing to us and asking him questions. And he was telling them something and pointing to us.
This makes me a bit sad. I can imagine what a twisted type of information he was imparting to them. "Those are enemies. They are Suppressives and Bigots. Nothing on the signs is true or means anything. Look at them, how downstat they are dressed, they are all lunatics, etc" Those poor innocents. What a shame.
This is a pretty deserted area of Exhibit Halls Buildings, but it is a main bus thoroughfare. Pedestrian traffic was virtually non-existent, but traffic was steady at about a car every minute and buses every 10 minutes one way or another. I am trying to get my hands on the media release they sent out, but I have had it read to me on the phone. Pretty standard fair, and no mention of Scientology. My contact said she got the copy out of the trash in her boss's office. It wasn't even filed as is SOP.
NO Media Showed. They ignored the whole thing.
The front of the Theatre has dark blue/black mica or glass paneling on it and the T.O. had a banner about 3 feet by 20 feet tacked up. The banner was white paper and had "47th Anniversary of Dianetics" neatly painted on it in sky blue paint. In other words it was not very outstanding. The banner was hung at shoulder height, and add to that the fact that the clam Smoke Out going on was right in front of the banner and you realize right away that even a small crowd hid the damn thing from the street. They had standard-size _Dianetics_ cover posters up too, but these were just brown blots with yellow writing even at 30 feet.
With our bright yellow signs we were clearly visible for 100s of meters in any direction on the fair grounds.
Cars would go by and people would be craning their necks to see our signs. If they slowed down we would flip the signs to give them both sides. It was quite windy at times and we were walking back and forth with one side facing the Clam Smoke Out and the other treating the traffic. When a Bus came by we would give the driver and passengers a good look too.
Occasionally a car would go by very slowly peering at our signs and pointing at the clams. These were the herd of clams coming to this 'event', and they were none too pleased with our presence. We got fingers and squealing tires as they turned about looking for the parking, for which there was NO sign out front and if you weren't familiar with the grounds, not easily spotted. In fact, one set of clams actually stopped and asked me where the parking lot was: "Hey smartass, where do we park?" I resisted the temptation to send him into Lake Ontario and gave him valid, simple directions.
A lot of clams also came by bus and were let off about a block away. They kept peering in windows of the buildings looking for the 'Event'. (The theatre entrance is recessed back from the street, of course, for the U shaped driveway.) When they got close enough to see the writing on the signs they clued in. We made good sign posts. The ARSCC* Picket Parking Valet and Tour Guide Services were a complete success. (*WDNE)
We kept track of the body count, giving and taking for those who wandered in and out. By the announced 7:30 start there was at most 200 Clams inside or out. The start time came and went without notice until about 10 to 8 pm when the first of the FIVE times they announced "We're starting now" drew some of the faithful inside. Another 100 Clams and guests kept drifting in until about 8:20 when I think they actually did start. At least that was the time the odd clam or two sneaking out for a smoke stopped happening. We called it a done deal at 8:30.
Total attendance was at most 300 people from a population of over 5-8 million within 45 minutes drive in time. I imagine they got everybody to sit in the front centre section inside. Must have been pretty depressing for the Org staff! A less than 25% capacity turnout for the 'big event'. They had been pretty Upstat about attendance earlier at the org from the snippets of inter-talk I caught.
All in all, it was a total embarrassment for the Toronto Org.
7. Incidents at the Second Picket.
The Reverend Buttocks was out front the whole time pacing back and forth and giving us the death stare. He looked like any other out-of-pocket entrepreneur hosting an absolute PR flop: immensely unhappy. The clams gawked and pointed at us, some laughing and others glowering. The kids tried a little heckling, but drifted off to play around a huge fountain nearby. Once in a while some adult would try to round them up, but it was hopeless. I got the distinct impression these kids did not have much opportunity to have fun and be just regular, well, *kids*.
At one point three children came up to me, two girls and a boy. The older girl was about 14 and had a taperecorder. Reverend Buttocks saw them and made a beeline from about 50 feet. He almost ran! These kids were not clams. I knew this by their dress, (the usual designer stuff like Nike and Logo'd clothing as opposed to Sally Anne hand-me-downs) and the fact they came up to me at all. The oldest girl said she and her friends were doing a school project on Scientology and wanted to ask me a few questions. (Yes, I will be writing to the PTA's and the Teachers Elementary School Federation.) She wanted to know if I hated Scientologists and where I got my information. Rev. Buttocks was close enough to hear that and catch my answer. I said, No, I didn't hate the people, I just disagreed with the management practices and the costs. Did they have Internet access in their School? (affirmative nods.) Then they should check out Operation Clambake through DejaNews and the Scientology pages. Compare all the information, I advised them, and then decide for themselves what to think.
At this point Rev. Buttocks jumped in and said: "He is a liar and a bigot. A lunatic. He said on the Internet that scientologists should be hunted down and killed like wolves!" This pushed my button. I am not perfect and I was getting tired. So I shot back, "You are a dishonest propagandist who quotes out of context." He shoots back, "It was on the Internet so it has to be true!" Now this was so funny I had to laugh. And I saw the bewildered looks on the kids' faces. They were being argued over by two adults, which isn't fair. The girl was still taping, so I said to her, "Get him to give you the flyer he printed about me and use DejaNews to find out for yourself." Then I gave them a big smile and moved away. The Rev. treated them to a good 5 minutes of propaganda and then the kids went back towards the theatre.
The Reverend then planted himself square in the centre of the sidewalk and just stood there. We were forced to walk around him for a good 10 minutes. Each time I would pass behind him I said "Bread and Butter".
After 10 minutes of this he went back to the theatre front. He is a *very* unhappy clam.
Another motorist stopped later and shouts, "Why are you doing this?" I reply, "because they have a ruthless management." He says, "but in the Globe they say they have changed." I say, "They are less than forthright, and their doctrine of oppression is still in force." He says, "give me a flyer." So I cross into traffic (a no-no) and give him a flyer. He wants to talk and I tell him I can't stand in the road. So he pulls into the first bit of the Q.E. Theatre driveway. Buttocks sees this and starts to dog trot over. My driver friend asks where I got the flyer and I tell him the Internet. He says what is the URL? (Note: I screwed up and didn't have or print up a list.) I tell him how to find Operation Clambake, which he writes down on the flyer, and I added as Rev Buttocks joined us, "Don't forget to check out the scientology main site to compare information; the URL is www.scientology.org or .com, ask this gentleman - he is a Scientologist and could fill you in on that. Say Rev is it .org or .com this guy wants to know?" Then I smile at the driver and move on. The Rev talks to this guy for a few minutes; things get heated. Then the Rev is joined by the Lady OT7 from earlier and she takes a spin at the driver. Then one of the other OT3+ ladies from earlier joins them and takes a spin at the driver too. The three of them are all bent over talking to this guy and presenting their posteriors to the street and passing traffic. It was hilarious! The poor guy behind the wheel was looking very displeased and angry. This went on for a good five minutes. At one point one of the passengers in the back seat gets out walks over to me and says, "Can I have a flyer too? Those people are all liars and thieves." Shortly thereafter the car pulled out.
Later, D'Artangnan gave a good 10 minutes to a driver who stopped to ask for a flyer and about Lisa. A CNE security type finally broke that up and asked the guy to move on, as it was a no parking zone.
We had two police patrol car visits to ask us how it was going and were we going to be peaceful etc. Artemis and D'Artangnan let me do the talking, and I told the Cops both times that everything was fine, and we chit-chatted a bit about the Co$ criminal record.
These coppers knew their stuff. Both times the good Rev. would start to trot over and the cops would wind up our conversation and drive off with a polite wave to the Rev.
I think the Rev was getting a good work out.
During the course of our hour and 45 minutes on site we received a lot of verbal and non-verbal acknowledgements from Clams and from the passing traffic.
One clam yelled at us "psychs" and at least four Clam drivers gave us the finger. Most significantly we had 5 highly positive bus driver acks. One driver even stopped and opened the door and said something like "Keep it up" or "Good going".
And one Bicycle Ack. Another German student. He took a flyer and asked for my email address. He had uncomplimentary things to say about the Co$, but he was on the clock and had to move on. (I think he was a courier.)
The late arrivals for the 'Big Event' petered out at about 8:20 and they finally closed the doors at 8:25. We decided the field was won and packed it in at 8:30, even tho' I had filed a Notice for a Demo 'til 9:30.
When we got back to the Events parking lot I did a quick car count. There were at most 50 cars in the lot. About 10 were clearly marked as CNE maintenance vehicles and I spotted about 10 more with the yellow CNE staff stickers, so I figure only 30 cars were possibly there for the 'Big Event'. A lot of them were pretty beat up too.
I drove my camarades, 'Artemis' and 'D'Artangnan' back into Toronto City Centre (the CNE is on the South West edge of Toronto). We talked about what we had done and laid plans for the future. They were both concerned for me because of the DA letter and a little apprehensive in retrospect about the day. This was understandable. We were winding down from an experience that we had been prepared to take a beating for if necessary, and all-in-all it had gone well. My friends both decided to remain unnamed at this point, but both want to do it again. We have already made plans, but would welcome others.
After all, the Rev and his cohorts *did* thank us more than once at the first demo for giving them free publicity, so we just *have* to come back as we offered to.
They really need our help.
I covered all the expenses on this one (except for one parking fee) but that is ok. It didn't amount to more that $150 all told, and much of that was a one-time expense.
[I will happily exchange my receipts for the usual Prozac and Ritalin Vouchers from the Accounting Dept at the ARSCC (WDNE). Just don't slip in the damn Gummie Bear 'Bonus'. I heard that others have lost fillings on the damn things and our ARSCC Health Plan sucks.]
We must have cost the Toronto Org tens of thousands in lost potential income from innocents they will not be able to deceive.
And next time I will have had the time to set up a press conference and photo ops. I know more about public relations than Reverend Buttocks and co. could dream about. And I am very good in front of the Camera. ACTRA members usually are.
Please watch for my followup post titled:
Toronto: Reverend Buttocks Blows Hard.
This post will contain the full transcript of my publicly and openly made demo tape recordings, the full text of the DA and PR flier, and my reply to same.
If Graham Berry sees this, I would like to know if the same thing handed out Stateside would have a libel case.
I will web everything I can as soon as possible.
Keep on Sluggin'
Hey, what SP level can I attest to now? (grin)
Go back to main Scientology in Canada page
Martin Hunt / email@example.com / August 22 1997