Thanks to "Shellac"
Happily a friend (who wishes to remain anonymous - I'll call him "Tony") contacted me and said he would be visiting London on Thursday and Friday. He was keen to see witness the exhibition, so he went on Thursday. We then met up this morning to hand out a few leaflets, then chat over coffee.
At around 10:30am we reached the exhibition. The Jive Aces were set up on the street, kickin' out some old skool tunes. A few leafleters were around as well.
"Tony" had kindly printed off 50 copies of a slightly altered version of the 'Who is Xenu?' leaflet, since I didn't have any material to hand out. We positioned ourselves about 20 metres up the street from the exhibition, away from the scientologists. Tony didn't want any hassle, so we kept our distance.
Things were going well. Then it began. One scientologist walked past, telling me to 'stick your leaflet up your arse'. Charming. Thankfully I am immune to intension beams, otherwise life could have become uncomfortable.
"Tony"s presence clearly perturbed the scientologists. He attracted the attention of one of the TCR staff ("Tony" ignored him). Then Graeme Wilson, who had be so civil to Martin Poulter and me the previous week, tried to engage "Tony". "Tony" ignores him (and the Sea Org woman who accompanies him). Graeme then proceeded to cry 'who are you? what are your crimes?'.
Graeme, it should be noted, is the Public Affairs Director of Scientology in the UK, and as such should be above this sort of nonsense.
I stepped in and told him to leave us alone. There is nothing to stop us being there. We have not interfered with the Scientologists, or their exhibition, and we don't want to be harassed on a public street. Eventually he backed off.
After a further 10 mins we had run out of leaflets, so we agreed to go for a coffee. Graeme decides that it it time for photos, however. Tony did not want any photographs, so I went over to Graeme (blocking his shot of "Tony") and chatted to him, while "Tony" left.
Graeme, it turns out, is deeply confused about free speech and libel. He thinks, for instance, that the leaflet we have handed out is libellous. Where? I carefully go through the Xenu story, no libel, the bit where it is called 'stupid' - opinion, not libel. Graeme backs down. But he thinks Scientology is right to sue anyone who makes derogatory remarks about the 'Church' - it's libel. Oh dear.
As I badger Graeme about the right to free speech, and how libel must entail 'damage' of some substantial kind, it becomes clear that he really isn't that good a debater. His gaze begins to wander, his face becomes worn. So I say goodbye and leave.
But as I wander off a policeman approaches me. He's had complaints about libellous leaflets and a potential breach of the peace (John Ritson had a similar complaint). We were 'outside the shop' according to the complaint. This is the last straw, and I am _not_ happy. The police who cover the area round the shop don't deal with Scientologists at all. The complaint is a pack of lies, and I was a little hard on the policeman. But you'd think they'd try to assess the merit of the complaint (libel is not even a police matter, btw). Anyway, Graeme got photos of me and a policeman, so he was happy.
So quietly distributing leaflets for half an hour generated a quite disproportionate response. Wogs at cause ;-)
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