(I had hand written these notes on the way home and never typed them in before)
JEFF'S DECEMBER 1997 CLEARWATER PICKET REPORT
We began working on this picket about in July '97. The original plan was to march across the bridge to Clearwater Beach and back. The idea behind this is that there would be many public driving to the beach that we would reach. However, there is an ordinance against handing out flyers in traffic, plus we couldn't be sure of good weather attracting people to the beach, so we abandoned that and chose to picket both the Ft. Harrison hotel and the Sandcastle hotel down near the bridge.
Someone suggested that a permit might help prevent the co-mingling of groups like last time, so we discussed on our internet mailing list whether to get one and what to apply for. I filled out the form and sent it in early October (it takes 30 days for approval). I put down that we would be picketing both sides of the 200 block of Ft. Harrison Ave . from 9:30am to 10:30am December 6. At 10:30 we march to the Sandcastle and picket there until 11:30, then march back to the Ft. Harrison to finish up. I also put that we would be using a bull horn, and would have a 6' information table (though we never did). I applied for a permit for the candlelight vigil on Dec. 5 at 6:30pm to 8pm. I said we would be across from the Ft. Harrison with candles and a bagpiper, then walk across and pass the front of the Ft. Harrison with candles and then go home. Both permits were approved, fought by the "church" (Ben Shaw) and upheld.
On our mailing list we argued what our handouts should say and decided there should be "rules of picketing" so any public coming would follow those rules. We discussed what the press release should say, whether to exclude Garry Scarff for threatening me and claiming to beat up a Scientologist last picket, and we discussed many other details. The list was very helpful.
We started working on an ad, but then Arnie asked that he handle that. The ad went from a small ad to a large ad, then in actuality it was about 1/8 page ad that ran on Thursday Dec. 4th.
We got donations for the picket, advertising, and to help someone come to the picket who couldn't otherwise afford it.
Several people (about 6) at the last minute couldn't make it, but we had 27 "official" picketers, from Germany, Sweden, Canada and several US cities.
On Thursday Dec. 4 Allyson and I played taxi to bring people from the airport to the Holiday Inn on US 19.
About 11:30 Arnie, Martin, Birgitta and I went to WMNF radio in Tampa. Arnie had set up a radio show in Denver at noon. Almost as soon as I got to WMNF, Rob Lorei said that the "church" had called and demanded to be on with us. I was scheduled to be on but since Martin and Birgitta were there and were ex-members, they went on with Arnie.
Rob was struggling to decide whether to let a Scientologist on with us since he had already set up for the show to be just critics and another show on Tuesday to be just Scientologists. This would have been much better, but I didn't push it because of the threat of lawsuit the "church" always uses. Rob decided for the "church" so Sylvia Stanard arrived late to represent them. The show was horrible because it became emotional instead of factual. I sat in and Ron Newman arrived late and listened with me outside the studio. A "church" attorney also sat in the studio.
I was interviewed by CBS news later, but apparently they never used me.
Thursday night I played taxi and drove to pick up our signs. Sandy helped with taxi service also. We started to make signs that night (the vinyl lettering needed to be pasted onto the boards).
Friday morning we played taxi some more and prepared for the press conference. At 11am we met in the conference room to go over plans, carpooling, etc. I handed out the Xenu rings that designated "official" picketers (although I gave one to Det. Miller and his captain also as a joke). Dennis and Dandar were at a hearing for the restraining order the "church" got on Dennis.
We generally ate at the hotel, but there was also a Perkins and a Bennigans nearby.
Just before the press conference I heard that Dennis and Dandar might not make the press conference because the hearing was dragging on. They were both scheduled to speak, so I panicked and ran to my room so I could fill in for Dandar (I was to introduce the press conference). Glen Barton rented the meeting room next to ours. He sat in the lobby, apparently waiting to confront Keith Henson who did not come (we had trolled that he would be there). Mike Rinder, Brian Anderson, John Carmichael and other "church" members held a press conference right after ours. Brian and John tried to come into our press conference but were turned away. Rod was the doorman plus we had an off-duty cop at the door.
There were at least 8 cameras at the press conference, plus radio and print journalists too. There was a German TV crew, plus CBS, and Pulitzer Prize winner Lucy Morgan. I spoke first, about why we were there, then filled in for Dandar by reviewing Lisa's story. Birgitta spoke of her experiences, then Martin. Dennis and Dandar finally arrived, so Dennis spoke, then Dandar, and Tom Padgett finished up.
Afterward German TV interviewed Dandar.
Before that Deanna had a confrontation with Glen Barton in the hotel lobby. The "church" members were acting strange, too, so the hotel manager and Christine (the person I dealt with at the hotel) came up to me to discuss these problems. I apologized for Deanna's behavior and told them to treat us as any other guests if we individually did wrong. Christine then complained that I had never said we were going to have a press conference, which was a lie.
At 3pm police representatives came to go over how they planned to handle the vigil and picket. They planned to make a corridor from the Ft. Harrison entrance going north with barricades, so we could be seperated from Scientologists. They would put barricades elsewhere if needed.
The "church"'s Winter Wonderland was being advertised as opening at 6pm Friday night. This was an area of the empty lot across from the Ft. Harrison hotel that the "church" owns. They had put little horses, fake snow, a kid's slide, a jumping cushion, giant snowmen, and other things, and a 3 foot high picket fence right up against the sidewalk we would be using. The ad said they would have bagpipers and other music there.
We had 4 walkie talkies, the family channel kind that is supposed to go up to 2 miles. Scott, Deanna, Grady, Rod and others used them.
Oh, and the hotel screwed up 2 reservations.
We got to the courthouse for the vigil about 6:15pm. Mark came last, with the candles. The smokers had lighters so they all lit the candles. Bob remembered to bring the Lisa sign (a blown up photo of Lisa on both sides). I carried that sign, and only Garry Scarff's sign and mine were there. Garry was with Gabe when we got to the Ft. Harrison, and the bagpiper was already at the courthouse. We also had a wreath that Maggie had made, with a wire tripod to put it on.
When we all lined up opposite the Ft. Harrison Hotel, it was obvious that both the Winter Wonderland AND the hotel were completely closed down. In front of the hotel were the barricades as the police had said. There were about 20 police there. The "church" had put up Christmas trees in front of the hotel entrance, and signs saying "sorry but we're not here .We're out doing good." Also on the sides were signs saying "deadbeat dads and child molesters go home." The "church" had photographers and security people around but that was all. We could see some people looking down on us from windows.
Where WERE the Scientologists? About 2 blocks to the east is police headquarters, and on the same block is the St. Petersburg Times office. About 1500 Scientologists were circlinga 4-block area which included these. They were chanting "Sid Klein, what's your crime?" Klein is the chief of police. They also chanted "St. Pete Times, truth not lies." They had signs too with several slogans, and candles.
We passed this crowd coming to the Ft. Harrison hotel and assumed they would be heading our way, but they never did. As we left we went by their protest and were stunned by how many there were. The police were not informed of this protest and had to pull 20 people off other beats to cover this.
We went off to supper, then worked on making signs in Sandy's suite.
I only saw one "church" PI in the hotel, and he generally stayed in the lobby photographing anyone who walked by with his video camera. He left as Rod was pointing this out to the hotel.
Saturday morning we met in the parking lot to carpool to the picket.
We arrived at the courthouse about 9:20am. We finally started picketing about 9:40. Again, the hotel and Winter Wonderland were closed. Brian Anderson stated that they were all at the opening of the new Pinellas trail.
At about 10:30 we walked over to the Sandcastle Hotel, about 6 blocks away. It also was closed, and had a similar sign saying "we're out doing good." We got bored there, and there was very little public traffic, so we went back to the Ft. Harrison and finished up picketing there. Garry picketed with us and apologized to some people but not to me. I think we spoke only once, about what street we were on.
The picket was mostly uneventful. We had t-shirts that said "Scientology kills" on front, and a portion of OT 3 on back. I heard that one Sea Orger who was videotaping us read the OT 3 stuff, said "this is crap," handed his camera to his boss, and left.
We left to go eat lunch. A few people stayed behind at Harrison's Grill, then walked around downtown.
Oh, just before I left, I told TV 8 news that if they didn't tell anyone, I'd tell them where we would be picketing in the afternoon. I told them we were going to Ybor City Dianetics Center at 5pm. Lo and behold, at about 2:30 they announced it on TV! I got in trouble for leaking our secret ahead of time.
The Ybor City picket was boring. The center was closed with few pedestrians around. Scientologists drove by to show that they knew about the picket, but only the usual PI came by and taped us from across the street. When the picketers saw him they all rushed over and surrounded him and took photos of each other next to him. This looked like a confrontation to me, wherein the PI could maybe later claim he was assaulted, so I tried to tape the whole encounter.
After he left, we dumped our signs in the cars and ate at the Tampa Bay Brewing Company. Then we went back to our hotel for the night.
Sunday I played taxi most of the day and said goodbye. Only Ron, Arnie, Martin and I were left.
Monday I met Mark for lunch, then went around "church" properties. Hacienda Gardens seemed empty except for a security guy. The Ft. Harrison was open but there was little foot traffic. The Sandcastle was also open. I tried to find the quarters used by married staff, but didn't.
I went to Busch Gardens and rode the roller coasters, then left on Tuesday.