a picket at the Scientology building in San Francisco
Suppressives: Stacy Young, Bob Minton, Keith Henson, Grady Ward, phr, Taniwha, ExMudder, and me (did I miss anybody?)
Date/Time: 8/29/98, about 12:00 until about 3:00 pm
Handouts: fliers, suckers, mints, Attorney General postcards
Tools: sign, disposable camera, tape recorder, bag-o-suckers-n-mints
Weather: sunny and warm
Foot Traffic: steady
Street Traffic: steady
Scn Response: constant videotaping and photography; eventually handed out DA fliers on Bob, Scientologists picketed my residence
General Passerby Response: very favorable
Stats: 82 mint/law fliers; 32 suckers and 82 sucker/law fliers; 23 "Why" fliers; 10 Lisa fliers; 0 Xenu fliers; 43 Attorney General postcards; 2 "is $cn breaking the law" fliers - plus about 25 multi-purpose fliers I mooched off of Grady. Total: 243 fliers/postcards.
Note: as I do NOT have perfect memory, any quotes below are very close paraphrases. I apologize for any inadvertent inaccuracies and will try to correct any errors that are pointed out to me.
Eight of us put in an outstanding picket at the San Francisco org today. It was my first opportunity to meet Stacy, Bob, Keith, Grady, and ExMudder, and it was a real joy to see Taniwha after lo these many weeks.
I think the original plan (such as it was) was to picket from 11 to 12, stop for lunch, and then picket some more if we felt like it; but as it turned out, we picketed pretty much non-stop from 12 to 3, with some of us taking a few minutes here and there to pick up some lunch or find a restroom.
THE PRE-PICKET PICKET
Not a whole lot to report here, except that the bus driver noticed my sign and wished me luck - "I hope you get your message across." I gave out at least three fliers before reaching the org.
I wasn't the first to arrive, for a change - Bob, Stacy, and Grady were already in full picket mode by the time I got there. (Well, Bob was a little downstat - he was still assembling his sign when I stepped over and introduced myself.). Grady had a nice big batch of fliers featuring Lisa, OTIII, and several of Grady's favorite LRH quotes.
Shortly after arriving, I got to meet Keith. I didn't see him that much during the picket - he mostly picketed around the corner, on Market Street (one of San Francisco's busiest thoroughfares). Tani, ExMudder, and phr all arrived not long after I did.
YOU'RE ON CANDIED CAMERA!
When I arrived, a Scientologist I'll call Videoboy was in everybody's face with a camcorder. As others have mentioned, it doesn't seem likely that he was actually taping, since he had no battery and the red light was off while he was taping.
Videoboy was not big on comm. He gave most of us the silent treatment most of the time, but we got a few words out of him, such as when Taniwha pointed out to me that the red light wasn't on, and Videoboy assured me that tape WAS rolling. I asked him his name, and he gave me an almost comical intention-beam stare; later on, I asked if he made minimum wage, and got the same response. Later still, while I was strolling back and forth and he was following me, filming away (or not), I asked him if he didn't think it would be a good idea to communicate with us, to raise our affinity and reality and correct any misinformation we had, and he indicated that he wasn't interested. A minute later I told him I liked the neck thing he was wearing (sort of a studded necklace thing), and he said "Thank you."
When he first started "filming" me, he actually asked rather politely if he could see the other side of my sign, and I obligingly turned it around for him. He read all the text into his cell phone. I wonder why he needed to do that if his camera was running?
He later came out with a picture camera and snapped photos. Given his general behavior of being rude about the filming, I was again surprised when he asked one or two of us for permission to photograph.
Of course, passersby were unused to seeing this kind of behavior and asked us what was going on. (I didn't notice anyone asking a Scientologist why they were filming/photographing us.)
WOG TECH RULES
Burly Bob put the rest of us to shame with his double-fisted picketing technique. I do think I can fairly claim to have out-talked everybody else, though - I kept up a pretty constant spiel with the public. (Of course, I was talking so much I wasn't paying attention to the others, so maybe they all did out-comm me.)
Going back listening to my tape, I hear the usual melange of street noise: traffic, wind, and my own little refrain of "I think Scientology is breaking the law. Would you like to know more?" ... but at regular intervals I can hear Bob calling out "Scientology killed Lisa McPherson" or Grady bellowing "Scientology hates people! Scientology hates free speech!"
As usual, our diversity was our strength. We had loud people (me) and quiet people, people mostly picketing and people doing lots of fliering, people drawing attention and people quietly answering questions. I really do think the number of picketers made us much more accessible to the public. It would be great if we could have 5-10 people at every picket.
THE PEOPLE SPEAK
Since this picket was longer and better-attended than most of our pickets, we got even more interesting comments than usual from passersby. Here's a small sample:
"America is very good!" - a gentleman who was just happy to see people picketing and exercising their right to free speech (probably an immigrant to America, judging by his accent and his comment)
"When I see the Mormons I say, 'Oh, the colonizers of brown people.' Then when I see the Scientologists, I think, 'oh, the colonizers of white people!'" - a random passerby
"They all smoke. It's not a very good advertisement for their program."
"Picketers outside Scientology is about 20 years overdue."
responses to me saying "I think $cn's breaking the law": "I'd be willing to bet on it." "Does a one-legged duck swim in a circle?" "Breakin the law! Breakin the law!" from a couple of Beavis and Butthead fans, and a comment from a friendly black man that sent Stacy and me into gales of laughter: "How long did it take you white folks to figure that out?"
And one lady responded to my standard "If it bothers you as much as it bothers me, I hope you'll tell your friends and your congresspeople." with hysterical laughter.
We also had several sadder and more sobering conversations. Two people this week mentioned rattlesnakes as a $cn harassment tactic; I told one of them that I thought that was Synanon, but he said the case he knew about was definitely $cn. Another gentleman told me he knew of a whole family that lost their lives in $cn. I was expressing my concern that people were being locked up, and he said, "I know three cases. I know a whole family who died. Right here in San Francisco. ... They took his house, everything." I asked him the name of the family (he thought it was Richards) and how long ago it happened (6 years or so). I expressed my sympathy on the loss of his friends.
We also had a gentleman who said he'd worked for $cn and wasn't able to get them to pay him. I suggested he report the problem to the labor board and told him that he should have gotten minimum wage, and he left the picket area FULL of enthusiasm. I'd be surprised if he doesn't file a back wage claim.
IS BERLITZ A GERMAN CONSPIRACY?
Once again, I got to practice my Spanish - AND my French. One couple asked if I had any info in Spanish, and I summarized my concerns as well as I could. (I have GOT to look up the Spanish words for "fraud" and "extortion" and "illegal imprisonment". I did manage to get "practicing medicine without a license" across.) They were very interested. A while later, my postcards fell out of my flier-holder, and a little girl helped me pick them up. When I discovered she and her family spoke Spanish, I got to thank her in Spanish for her help and offer her a mint.
Another couple declined fliers, but when they stopped at the traffic light, they had time to read our signs. They approached and asked whether we were for or against $cn. I told them that I was against some of the things $cn does. The lady said something about $cn being prosecuted in France, and I asked whether they were from France. She said yes, and I switched to French (Salut! Roger! Nous avons besoin de toi ici a San Francisco!) and mentioned the manslaughter case in Lyon, and she said they were actually from Lyon. I gave her a big grin and a handshake and bid them welcome to San Francisco and wished them a wonderful stay.
We had one passerby who only spoke Bosnian. Since Bob has experience dealing with other countries, I yelled over to ask him if he spoke Bosnian, but no such luck, so we were unable to give this gentleman any information.
THE BAY GUARDIAN'S OFFICE
One of the two local weekly alternative papers is the San Francisco Bay Guardian. A reporter from the Guardian happened to stop by while we were picketing, and although it started out as a fairly staid one-on-one conversation, we sucked the others in as they passed by. I explained my concerns about $cn and told him about my exciting week (pickets at my home and being tailed in LA), and I mentioned our out-of-town guests, including Keith and Grady. After we'd been talking a while, Keith wandered by and I snared him and introduced him to our reporter. Later, while I was discussing allegations of false imprisonment, Stacy happened to stroll by and mentioned that she had been incarcerated for eight months. We loaded the poor guy down with information, phone numbers, and email addresses. I hope he'll be intrigued by what he reads and decide to follow up.
I had hoped we might get even more of a press presence, but I think we were upstaged by an anti-fur protest at Neimann-Marcus.
MICHELLE, MA BELLE
An hour or two into the picket, two or three Scientologists came out to hand out the infamous DA sheet on Bob. One of them was a young lady who seemed very nice. As I often do, I introduced myself as Jour, and unlike most of the other Scientologists that day, she gave me her name - Michelle.
I got curious about their flier, so I asked Michelle if I could read a copy, then asked if I could keep it, and she was most obliging. She and I mostly worked the same corner, and whenever I would give fliers to people, she'd come over and put a DA flier into their hands, too (unless they were well past her range - she didn't run after anybody).
I told her I really appreciated her willingness to communicate with me, and told her that if there was ever anything she wanted to talk to me about, my email address was on my flier. I added that if she had any info that conflicted with my info, that I really, really wanted to know about it.
As the afternoon wore on, she and I swapped occasional comments about the passersby, the weather, and our respective sore feet (I don't think anyone thought we would stay for three hours).
When we left, I thanked her again for talking to me and wished her good luck with Scientology. I really liked her.
I got a little bit of comm out of another Scientologist - he walked past me and asked if I was the famous Jour (gee! I'm famous!), and I said, "Yes, who are you?" I couldn't hear him well because he was walking away from me, but I believe he replied that he was the famous Mark. If I'm not mistaken, he was the other major player in handing out the Minton DA fliers. ... I noticed he was only giving them out to people we'd already fliered, and I kiddingly scolded him, "You guys should have better dissem! Flier the people we DON'T get, too!"
The duelling fliers situation was kind of comical. When I had time, I tried to point out to the recipients that the white flier the Scientologists were handing out had lies in it, and was an attempt to discredit us picketers.
Other than Michelle and a few sentences from Mark and Videoboy, though, I got no replies from the other Scientologists. I saw Mr. Get-Your-Facts-Straight and asked him if he was one of the gentlemen who picketed my home, but as usual he wouldn't even look at me.
WINDING IT UP
By the end of the picket I had given away nearly ALL of my fliers - definitely a record for me - and Grady was nice enough to let me mooch some off him.
As it got close to 2 pm, I wanted to pack it in, so I asked everyone if I could get a group photo.
It's been said that organizing a.r.s.ers is like herding cats, but you don't really know the truth of it until you try it. I literally stood at the edge of the sidewalk waving my arms and watched while everyone wandered off in different directions. Augh! <grin>
We did, however, eventually get everyone lined up in two neat rows, and Keith even got a passerby to take our photo. I distributed hugs all 'round and headed off to enjoy the rest of the weekend.
It was a really, really great picket. I was absolutely delighted to meet so many people I've come to know from their posts, and I was very pleased to have broken even yesterday's record for handing out literature.
I am, however, exhausted, so I think I'll skip picketing tomorrow.
My sincere thanks to ExMudder, Keith, Grady, Bob, and Stacy for coming to San Francisco and picketing. It was GREAT to meet you!
Kristi / Jour
This page was last updated on May 8, 1999.