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The Battle Over Scientology: How The Lines Were Drawn In Riverside Co.

It’s a full blown war you’ve likely never heard of. There is a battle between leaders of the Church of Scientology and a group of activists with both sides sworn to fight to the end.

This is war; in the shadow of a cross, and behind the gaze of a mask.

Like any war, there is violence; there is rage.

There are politicians in the middle of it, and there are partisans fighting on our streets.

Both the Church of Scientology and the group simply known as “Anonymous” both say they will not stop until the other side is destroyed.

Protestors, many wearing masks, regularly picket outside of Scientology’s headquarters on Gilman Springs Road, near Hemet.

Last fall, protestors got too close to Scientology’s compound. In video shot by protestors, one can hear the organ-like sound coming from giant speakers inside the Scientology headquarters trying to disrupt the picketers. Tempers flare and Scientology guards rush in, telling one “you’re under arrest for trespassing!” while tackling him down.

Protester Francois Choquette, known in the Anonymous community as “Anon-Orange,” has a knee to his neck, his face grounded in the dirt by one of three guards around him.

A guard does a leg sweep to trip another protestor as she tries to recover Choquette’s video camera. She is thrown forcefully against the back of a Scientology vehicle.

The protestor told News Channel 3, “Danny Dunnigan, the security guard, grabbed me by the arm so I punched him. He let me go then he tried to grab me again. There was a tussle and he threw me against the car.”

When asked if she was hurt, the protestor wearing a mask responded, “Somewhat, yeah. I twisted my back.”

Riverside County Sheriff’s deputies arrived minutes later. They arrest Choquette based on claims by the guards that he bit one of them and that he was guilty of trespassing beyond the legal protest zone.

A deputy explained the right of way from Gilman Springs Road as, “It’s 50 feet from the center of the roadway sir, each way.”

Based on this incident and several other protests at their headquarters, the Church of Scientology lobbied the Riverside County Board of Supervisors to ban all protesting close to residential zones, including their massive compound.

It is a legal battle that continues to this day. But this fight also became a spark, a symbol of resistance for the rag-tag group of protestors who unify on the internet and have the attention of law enforcement agencies for their tactics of irregular warfare.

It is the war that most have never heard of, until now.

A coalition of internet activists are sworn to destroy it, but, what exactly is Scientology? What do its members believe and why is it so controversial? We’re taking a closer look at this new church.

KESQ News Team


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