North America - Canada
Masked protesters rally against Scientology
("CTV," April 12, 2008)
Toronto, Canada - The Anonymous group struck out again at Scientology Saturday, holding protests against the religious group in Canada and around the globe.
Anonymous, a loose collective of Internet-based protesters, wear masks and hide their identity to prevent retaliation by Scientology hardliners, they say.
Protests were held in Winnipeg and Toronto, as well as international locations such as London, England and Sydney, Australia.
The group was demonstrating today against what they call Scientology's policy of "disconnect" -- in which the friends and family who criticize the religion are allegedly shut out of a member's life.
"They split up families. It results in children losing their parents, husbands losing their wives," a masked protestor said in Winnipeg.
But some Winnipeg police officers seemed to be more concerned about the masked demonstrators on their streets.
"If these people are creeping you out and you think they're some sort of cult that are going to target you individually for protesting their cause, are they really that powerful?" one Winnipeg cop asked the protestors.
Anonymous has been gaining strength and attention ever since a leaked video of Tom Cruise participating in a ceremony appeared on the Internet in January.
"I think it's a privilege to be a Scientologist and it's something you have to earn," Cruise says in the video, as part of the Mission: Impossible theme plays in the background.
Scientologist lawyers threatened legal action against websites that hosted the video, but the damage was already done, as the video was watched millions of times.
Fueled by the attention the video placed on Scientology, Anonymous raised its public profile and has promised more demonstrations in the future.
The German government has called Scientology a commercial enterprise, rather than a religion. Members must pay for some high-level teachings.