Scientology Crime Syndicate

Clearwater 99 Picket Report (LONG!)
mreuss@mciworld.com (Michael Reuss)
08 Dec 1999


I arrived at the Tampa Int. Airport in the late afternoon. A man whose posts I've long admired, but whom I'd never met in person, Warrior was waiting at the gate to greet me. He had arrived 10 min. before me, and we shared a ride to the hotel in a rental car.

At the hotel, I was pleased to meet in person for the first time, Rod Keller, Bev Rice, MadCow, Roger Gonnet, Gregg Hagglund, Gerry Armstrong, Ed and Sally Lottick, Dave Touretsky, TFC VP, Peter, Don Knotts, Merck, GypsyBlue. EtherCat and WhyNot, Steve Hassan. I also had the chance to reacquaint myself with Tilman, Jeff, Grady, Keith, Kim, Bob, Stacy, OTVIII, Bruce P., Mark B., among others (sorry if I forgot to include your name). The group was an all-star cast of anti-Scientology EssPees.

We walked to a nearby Tex-Mex Restaurant for dinner, and chatted amiably into the evening, taking up the better part of one room in the restaurant. There was much comradery and laughing. We heard details of that day's just concluded TRO hearings that Mr. Howd brought against Bob Minton. Most critics agreed that the ruling was basically a slap in the face at Scientology's attempts to suppress picketing behavior through confrontational bullbaiting. The judge ruled that Bob would have to stay 10 ft. (3m) away from Scientology's 17 buildings for the next 6 months (not permanently, as Scientology was requesting) but Scientologists would have to stay 20 ft. (6m) away from Bob when he was picketing. It makes quite a statement when the judge restricts the petitioner with bigger sanctions than he imposes on the defendant.

The 10 ft. limit came into play in an interesting way over the next two days. In fact, several critics had visited downtown Clearwater following the judges ruling, and witnessed Scientologists painting 10 ft. boundary lines around all their buildings on Thursday evening. Most of us critics at the restaurant determined that the 10 ft. line would not apply to us, since the judge meant it only to apply to Bob and his employees and assigns.

Friday Picketing

Many of the critics were tied up in the morning with a press conference at the hotel on Friday morning. But the rest of us headed for downtown Clearwater.

Hiding (-8.0) technology reaches new peaks.

We started picketing at the Fort Harrison around 10AM. Sure enough, there where orange dotted paint lines everywhere, and the sidewalks were all torn up on the west and north sides (the south side borders on some Pinellas County properties), and the front, east sidewalk was covered with 40 ft. (12m) high scaffolding which was draped with a green nylon mesh material. You could see through the mesh to a degree, but not very well. There was no room to walk anywhere on the sidewalk fronting the Ft. Harrison, and there were several big holes in the ground. Across the street to the east, the sidewalk was covered by a scaffold tunnel, with a wooden roof, and with green mesh covering both sides. To walk on that block, one had to enter the tunnel. However, there was a little space on each end of the tunnel where the sidewalks were not covered. Of course, the orange dotted line extended across these sections, right to the streetside curb.

Off-duty cops.

Several of us wanted to picket on the two small, uncovered segments of sidewalk across from the Ft. Harrison. There were two uniformed cops standing there, saying we should not stand there, nor would he even agree that we could walk through the tunnel with our picket signs! He kept saying he had made a call and was trying to get a ruling on whether or not the 10 ft. line applied to all picketers. Several of us assured him that it did not, and that his preventing us from walking on that block was a denial of our civil rights. He urged patience, saying he should know in 20 or 30 minutes. Finally, after about 15 minutes of discussion and waiting, we just ignored him, and began walking through the tunnel to picket on both ends. The two cops did nothing to stop us. What he never told us, but what I learned later, was that both of these cops were off-duty, and were hired by Scientology for security reasons. I came to believe that these two cops (a man and a woman) had not ever called anyone and were simply trying to bluff us into not picketing on that block. I hope I'm wrong, but if they did do this, I would say it is a highly inappropriate use of their uniforms and of their goodwill as police officers, to try and bluff people into silence, and in furthering one group's free speech agenda at the expense of another's.

Sidewalk destruction is extensive.

Not only were the sidewalks on the west and north sides of the Ft. Harrison destroyed. Sidewalks are also torn up on the only two sides of the Sandcastle hotel which have street fronts. The south sidewalk was very long, about 500 ft. The east side was shorter, but the entire block's sidewalk was gone. On the block to the east of the Sandcastle, the entire west side and part of the north side walks were destroyed. Plastic orange barricades and fencing kept people from walking were the sidewalks used to be. Another small area around a temporary building to the south of the ABC class room building had it's sidewalk ripped up. For those who do not know, the Sandcastle is where one goes in Clearwater to learn to believe they are OTs, while the Ft. Harrison is where one goes to learn to believe they are Clear.

Orange Dots.

Don Knotts had the brilliant idea to buy some orange stick-on dots from an office supply store, and we all wore them to indicate our contempt for the orange lines.

An uneventful day of picketing.

We picketed mostly quietly and uneventfully from about 10AM to about 5:40 PM. At first there were only about 10 of us, and then later in the day, I would say the numbers peaked at 25 or so picketers. As I mentioned above, many of the EssPees had press conferences and other meetings (the Lisa McPherson Trust held a board meeting on Friday, and Gerry Armstrong was interviewed on PBS radio), so I don't believe that on Friday, all the critics present in Clearwater were manning the picket lines at any time.


Scientology is big news in Clearwater, the press knows what's really happening inside Scientology, and the city is truly interested in these pickets. There were a lot of press people there, including Lucy Morgan and Tom Tobin of the St. Petersburg Times. Unfortunately for them (fortunately for us), not much happened that they felt was newsworthy. We picketers were all being so very polite and non-violent. How can you cover an event where you see very little in the way of fireworks. "Where were all the picketers?," they wanted to know. Spread out all over town, I told a couple of them. There just was no good place to be all together. They focused their stories on the orange painted lines. The next morning's papers mentioned that many of us wore orange dots to show our contempt for the painted lines.

Sid Klein.

On Friday, Clearwater Police Chief Sid Klein was asked by reporters about the painted lines. According to the next days papers, he got quite pissed off, saying it was akin to graffiti spraying, and that anyone caught defacing public property would be prosecuted. This message got through to Scientologists on Friday, as I will document later on.

Support from Clearwater residents.

I mentioned this in another post already, but it bears repeating. Many, many cars and pedestrians offered support to the picketers, waving from their cars, honking their horns, yelling out their windows, quietly nodding or giving thumbs up signs. I estimate that 10-15% of the passersby on a very busy Ft.Harrison Ave. showed support for the picketers. Sometimes there would be a real hot streak, and 5 or 6 cars in a row would start honking. It was fairly amazing, and quite gratifying to see such signs of support. Scientology has many problems with it's neighbors in Clearwater. Many people really do not like this organization being in their midst.

Sidewalk Destruction Tech fails.

Since there were so few large sidewalk areas on which to picket, the protesters just spread out across many blocks of downtown. Since the Scientologists were being shuttled around in vans, I believe this spreading out of the picketers created more enturbulation across a wider area than would have otherwise been seen. The shuttle vans would turn down side streets in order to avoid a block with a picketer on it. We saw this over and over. For a while, Sci'ts were opening a gate on the back side of the hotel to load and unload vans, because no picketers were back there. This required that the Scientologists had to cross the destroyed sidewalk area, and the orange plastic barriers at the curb. I have some video of the trampled barrier. They stopped unloading vans there (at least temporarily) when I walked around the back. Many vans were dropping (adult) people off at the ABC classroom building, one block east of the Ft. Harrison. Any time we walked down that block, the vans would stop coming there, and in fact, one time two vans were there, and the first had dropped off it's people, the second had not yet done so. MadCow and I walked that way, and the folks that had gotten off the first bus actually got back onto the second van, only to be hurried away, thus avoiding walking around the corner into the building, where they have had to see us. There was a skinny guy who acted as a door guard at this location, and he waited outside virtually all day, hurrying the students inside. He would go back inside the door as we approached. I yelled to him to come outside and meet us and talk to us, but he would never do it. At the end of the day, I made a special trip to his doorway to tell him goodnight, and to let him know that we'd see him the next day.

Croc. Dundee

Crocodile Dundee, the famous Internet video star tracked many of us with his video camera. He stayed a respectful distance away, and held his tongue, and in fact, I don't believe he said a word all day. I did mention to him that he was becoming somewhat famous, due to his appearances on www.XenuTV.com

Friday Picketing Kudos.

Roger Gonnet covered the very busy intersection of Ft. Harrison Ave, and the U.S. 60 bypass (which goes to the beach), almost all day. His sign, outlining LRH's criminal conviction in France, was a bit wordy, and a bit hard to read if the traffic was moving. But since there's a stoplight there, he always got to show his sign to a lot of stopped traffic. He was tireless. MadCow was a delightful and tireless picketer as well. Arnie Lerma and Don Knotts yelled NO OTs HERE, Arnie until he was hoarse. At one point, Arnie's yelling caused a Scientologist to come out with a jackhammer and start pounding away on the front sidewalk (under the covered section). We note for all those of the OSHA persuasion, that the young man operating the jackhammer wore neither ear or eye protection. Another time when Arnie was yelling NO OTs HERE, a Scientologist on an upper section of scaffolding started to hammer on the metal scaffolding, for no other purpose than to make noise to drown out Arnie. Gregg Hagglund stood picket on the north side of the sidewalk tunnel for a long time, as did Bev.


Saturday was much like Friday, with a few interesting twists.

Paint Scraping Tech.

Due to Police Chief Klein's Friday statement about the painted lines, Friday night and Saturday morning found many poor RPFers out on the sidewalks of downtown Clearwater with wire brushes and paint remover. They were scraping away, and on the nicer sidewalks in front of the bank building, they did a serviceable job of removing the orange lines. Other places, where the sidewalks weren't as pretty, they skimmed over some areas and you could still seem remnants of the 10 ft. line. I have video of a group of paint scrapers, which I'll try to get on-line soon.

Paddy Wagons and Cops

The message from Chief Klein was that he would tolerate NO bullshit (not his exact words, of course) from either side. To get his message across, when we arrived to picket on Saturday morning, there were two paddy wagons parked near one of the prime, Ft. Harrison picket locations. as well as lots and lots of ON-DUTY cops. There were cops everywhere. That was fine with me and with every other picketer I spoke to. It was much better than the two off-duty cops who were trying to bluff us while in uniform on Friday.

U-Haul Truck Tech designed to compliment Sidewalk Destruction Tech.

Saturday morning found a new wrinkle to sidewalk destruction tech. U-Hauls were rented overnight and parked in areas were the Scientologists could NOT tear up the public sidewalks. There were two U-Hauls parked to cover the west side of the parking lot one block south of Cleveland Ave. and 5 or 6 more parked along side the Sandcastle, on the side of the street which has a city park. The Scientologists obviously thought to try and hide picketers from the Sci'ts by making them picket on sidewalks which were behind lines of U-Haul trucks.

What's new, U-Haul Truck Tech fails.

Suppressive mastery over MEST foiled their best laid plans. Overnight on Friday, EssPees Dave Touretsky and Don Knotts parked a rental car in the best parking spot, right across from where the Sandcastle parking lot exits to the south. Then, Saturday morning, they replaced the car with a pickup truck, with two large protest signs aboard, as well as an inflatable Xenu in the bed. They manned this post pretty much all day, requiring Sandcastle vans to drive right past their signs. They also picketed on one tiny fragment of the sidewalk that was not destroyed, right next to the Sandcastle driveway. This upset the Scientologists so much that they actually parked two more U-Haul trucks in the driveway, completely blocking it! That didn't last too long, because the public members had no way to enter the facility in their cars. So after about an hour, they moved the two big trucks that were blocking their own entrance.

Sandcastle surrounded.

For about an hour, I covered the east exit of the Sandcastle hotel with my picket sign. Vans were driving around the new construction area there, to exit to the east, in order to avoid Don and Dave's entheta at the main driveway. These shuttles would usually be stopped at the stoplight with their occupants exposed to my sign (BTW, my sign read "$cientology's biggest skill" Harassment"). One van would always need to approach the stoplight to trigger the signaling mechanism, but if there were two or more vans, subsequent vans would wait 100 ft or more back from the stoplight, and then drive through quickly when the light turned green, to minimize exposure to my sign. I thought that was hilarious. I have this on video, too.

Allegations of dead pets.

As I was standing near the Sandcastle east exit, an elderly woman drove up to the intersection (light was red), rolled down her window, and thanked me for protesting against the Scientologists. I said that Scientology was a big bully, and the way to beat bullies was to stand up to them. I think she misunderstood my meaning, and thought I was rebuking her and the local population for not doing more themselves, because she replied "that's easy for you to say, you don't live here." She went on to say "the people here are afraid that if they speak out, their pets will be killed." I kid you not, that's what this little sweet old lady said. I was momentarily stunned by what she had said, and I had so many questions flooding into my brain that I wanted to ask her. I did manage to ask her if she had any personal knowledge of Scientologists killing people's pets. She replied that she was in a ladies group where they had discussed several incidents of people speaking out, and then losing their pets, mafioso style. I wanted to get her phone number, address, anything, but the light turned green, and she drove away. My adrenaline level was kicked up a notch or two. I hoped that she would decide to come back and talk to me, but she did not.

Hotline suggestion.

I respectfully suggest that as the Lisa McPherson Trust defines it's operational parameters, that a telephone hotline be established for citizens to call in and log harassments and suspected pet killings. If you give the local citizenry a place to tell of such stories, and perhaps be a force for the pursuit of official investigations into such incidents, I think some Clearwater residents will be very grateful.

Due to conference, morning picketing is sparsely attended.

Due to the conference that was organized at the hotel (at which former Clearwater Mayor Gabe Cezares spoke) there were only a few of us picketers at the Fort Harrison on Saturday morning.

Picketers numbers increase throughout the afternoon.

The peak of picketing came around 3 in the afternoon, with around 30 or more picketers, including Ed and Sally Lottick. Again, the reporters and TV stations were out in force, but seemed disappointed that there were not masses of picketers in one place, and that everything was so, er, well, peaceful. Maggie C.DiPietra appeared (she's so nice) with her kids. Whynot and Ethercat pushed a twin baby carriage with two Xenu dolls in it. It was very cute.

Bob Minton pickets, does not violate the 10 ft. limit.

Bob showed up for a while in the afternoon to picket. He stayed on the sidewalk in front of the church on the block to the north of the Ft. Harrison. He got lots of verbal support from the other picketers. Howd and Croc and Spence were nowhere to be seen.

Picketing Kudos for Saturday

Grady held down a spot near the OSA dining room, where he either got to expose many to his message, or at least deny them their lunch. Ed and Sally Lottick picketed briefly, she for the first time ever. All things considered, it was a good day of picketing.

Saturday Evening, The Lisa McPherson Candlelight Vigil.

Big turnout.

Virtually all the critics, many reporters, and several townspeople attended the Saturday evening candlelight vigil honoring the memory of Lisa McPherson. It was a fairly large crowd, I think around 60 or so. Six members of the McPherson family were also there. I spoke to one Clearwater woman who had seen the news broadcast about the vigil, and she decided to participate. Crocodile Dundee hovered with his video camera, about 50 ft. away.

Beamed message on the wall.

OTVIII and his driver spiced things up a bit when they beamed a slide show onto the side of the Ft. Harrison Hotel. The lighted message, which was about 20' tall was "We Will Never Forget You Lisa." Apparently this action really got the Scientologists upset, and police were called over to stop the projection. The cops said that no laws were being violated, but OTVIII did report that two cars attempted to illegally and dangerously block his car from driving around the block for a third pass (the message was beamed only during the period of a red signal light at the corner of Pierce St. and Ft. Harrison Ave). I'm not sure if the beamed message on the wall was an appropriate thing for the vigil, but it did have certain redeeming qualities, politically speaking. The sad irony of having the message on the wall of the building in which she died, in spite of all the expensive efforts that Scientology went to prevent such messages, was certainly thought provoking, and I think the TV news teams thought it to be newsworthy.

The vigil.

Gregg Hagglund spoke at the vigil, giving a brief Christian service. A bagpipe player played. Then the attendees then walked around the block to the back of the Ft. Harrison, near the room where Lisa M. was held on the babywatch. We were told by police that we could not be in the street, so we settled in the parking lot and sidewalk across the street to the west of the Ft. Harrison Hotel. Greg spoke again, saying that regardless of human justice, we would all one day face God's judgement. There was a moment of silence. Attendees then filed past a floral wreath and blew out their candles in what is a metaphor for the way Lisa McPherson's life was blown out by the Introspection Rundown. The bagpipe player played "Amazing Grace." TV news reporters were all over blowing-out-the-candles portion of the ceremony, filming each person as they came forward. I really didn't want to be a part of that, so I just stood back and blew out my candle in back row.

Terrific organization.

The event was, for the most part, dignified and tasteful. Jeff J. did a marvelous job of organization, right down to bringing a trash bag to pick up the trash after the event ended. Well done, Jeff.

Religion and Politics

I admit that I felt a bit odd mixing the religious/spiritual reverence and ceremony which is the stated purpose and the undeniable reality of the Lisa McPherson vigil, with the blunt political activism which is an unavoidable and powerful undercurrent to this event. I'm not complaining, mind you. I knew about the nature of the event in advance, and I had decided to participate at least once. But I was a bit uncomfortable mixing those two things. But something happened next which illustrated to me why we were all there and made me glad that I had attended.

After all the speaking was over, the bagpipe was silent, with people milling around talking quietly, Lisa McPherson's cousin (sorry, I forget her name) went over to Ed and Sally Lottick. She had a few tears in her eyes from what was to her, was obviously an emotional ceremony. She hugged Sally and broke out in sobs and said "I'm so sorry for both of you." If you didn't know, Sally and Ed's son Noah, killed himself while a member of Scientology, back in the early nineties. It was a very humbling, personal moment, which I don't think most people even saw. I silently absorbed this very touching and emotional moment, suddenly sad myself that a family like the Lottick's had to suffer so needlessly, too, just as McPherson's family did. I had a tinge of regret that with the Lotticks present, the ceremony hadn't mentioned their loss as well.

Had I not attended the vigil, this one moment would have not happened, and the personal grief of families would not seem as real for me as it does today. I hope my description here in some way conveys to you a fraction of how powerful and how moving was this unscripted embrace between these family members who have lost loved ones inside Scientology.

And at the heart of this issue, aren't we all really fighting for a future in which families are not torn apart by awful deaths like Noah Lottick and Lisa McPherson suffered, and for families that suffer due to other assaults on the family, such as ordered disconnections? These two families have suffered, continue to suffer the losses of their children and family members. Let's all resolve to help eliminate suffering of this kind, by any family, at the hands of controlling cult groups. Whatever one thinks about these candlelight vigils, I hope we can all agree on this one thing.

Dinner at Ottavios

Finally, Bob Minton generously bought dinner for about 30-35 SPs at a wonderful Italian restaurant call Ottavios. The Lasagna Bolognese was delicious. The owner kept the restaurant open later than his normal closing time, but managed to wait on the entire group. Thanks, Bob. Oh, and Bill, next time, I volunteer to do the toast, okay? ;-)


I flew out of Clearwater early Sunday morning and did not participate in any further picketing activities.

Michael Reuss
Honorary Kid


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