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[title unknown, re. Portland protest]

Title: [title unknown, re. Portland protest]
Date: Monday, 20 May 1985
Publisher: The Oregonian (Portland)
Authors: John Snell, Holly Danks
Main source: link (182 KiB)

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An estimated 500 members of the Church of Scientology rallied in downtown Portland late into the night Sunday, anticipating the early morning arrival of film star John Travolta.

Travolta, flying his private plane from Los Angeles for a quick stop in Portland to show solidarity with other Scientology members, arrived at Portland International Airport shortly after midnight.

He was greeted by more than 200 supporters who had been bused to the airport after a day of protest against a $39 million court judgment against the church. Travolta, a Scientologist, was taken to the Hilton Hotel in downtown Portland, where a news conference was scheduled in the early morning hours. He was expected to leave Portland after the conference.

Sunday's protest activities included a placard-waving demonstration, a concert and a candlelight vigil that encircled the Multnomah County Courthouse. Scientologists were protesting a $39 million court judgment against the church.

During a four-hour concert in Lownsdale Park, which featured songs by English pop artist Melanie and informal testimonials to Scientology by television star Michael D. Roberts and Jeff Pomerantz, church members from throughout the world vowed that the Multnomah County Circuit Court jury award would not stand.

"We are going to be here as long as it takes for the people of Portland, for the people of Oregon, for the people of the United States and the rest of the world to realize what has happened here," Pomerantz, former star of the daytime soap opera "One Life to Live" and a guest star on "Dynasty," said backstage.

"I think the judge will see the travesty of that decision and change that decision because it's wrong," the Rev. Heber Jentzsch, president of the Church of Scientology International, told the crowd. Scientology officials have said they will appeal the verdict.

Buses and planes carrying Scientology members arrived throughout the day, and more were expected throughout the week. A show of hands indicated that Sunday's audience included church members from New York, California, Hawaii, Washington, D.C., the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, France, Italy and Mexico.

Throughout the rally, many speakers likened the Scientology demonstration to the civil rights movement spearheaded by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and to the colonists' fight for freedom during the American Revolution.

"I'm ready to kick the tea in the water and Play the game all over again." Roberts, one of the stars of television's "Double Trouble" and a former cast member of "Beretta," said to a round of applause.

There were no incidents, although a few Scientology members were confronted by a vocal street person near the courthouse. Scientology security personnel were on hand and police circled the block intermittently. Limousines also provided security for some of the celebrities and church officials.

Earlier in the day, about 300 Scientology supporters marched for about 90 minutes around the Multnomah County Courthouse, which was closed Sunday.

Jazz musician and scientologist Chick Corea was scheduled to perform a free concert in Tom McCall Waterfront Park Monday at 8 p.m. Another rally was scheduled Monday afternoon at the park across from the courthouse.

The Rev. Ken Hoden, president of the Church of Scientology in Los Angeles, said the demonstrations could last much of the week but added that there was no schedule of events beyond Monday.

Volunteers were urged to meet at 4:45 a.m. Monday to organize a leafletting of Portland residents.

Estimates have varied widely on the total number of church members expected in Portland for the protests. The Rev. John Carmichael, head of the church estimated Saturday that as many as a half-million Scientologists — or about a third of the church members in the United States — planned to attend, but church officials have since backed away from that figure.

The rally was in response to a verdict handed down Friday in which a Multnomah County jury awarded $39 million in punitive damages to former church member Julie Christofferson Titchbourne, 27, who said she was victimized by "wanton misconduct" by the church and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

Titchbourne was awarded what is thought to be the largest punitive damage award in Oregon history when the jury decided the church had made fraudulent misrepresentations to her when she was a member.

"Major disasters in which hundreds of people are killed don't get $39 million judgments," Carmichael said.

"This is akin to burning a witch, to nailing somebody to a cross — an outright attempt to exterminate a religious group," he said.

Hoden said that "deprogrammers kidnapped Titchbourne from the church and held her for five days."

"She was made into a mindless robot and fired at the church like a bullet.

"What you're looking at is a setup," he said.

Carmichael said Sunday that he did not know whether the church's founder, Hubbard, was aware of the judgment. He said he doubted if Hubbard would get involved in the protests or the planned appeal.

"He just finished a 10-volume work of fiction, and, frankly, he's got better things to do," Carmichael said.

[Picture / Caption: CHURCH MEMBERS RALLY — Sign-carrying demonstrators circle Multnomah County Courthouse Sunday to protest recent $39 million verdict against Church of Scientology.]