Masked 'Anonymous' group protests Scientology

Arizona Republic/February 10, 2008

Wearing face masks, purple latex gloves and dressed all in black, a group of protestors who call themselves "Anonymous" held signs in front of the Church of Scientology of Arizona near Indian School Road and 7th Street in Phoenix Sunday morning to protest the controversial church.

About 60 protestors said they gathered in lieu of the birthday of Lisa McPherson, a woman whose 1995 death sparked media attention and a civil wrongful death suit against a branch of the Church of Scientology.

"Anonymous" members are a web-based group who claim to have no organization or leaders, and have garnered national attention for allegedly hacking into different Internet sites, as reported by L.A.'s Fox News 11 in July.

In January, the group launched an attack on the Church of Scientology that spread throughout the Internet and sparked several worldwide protests.

The Church of Scientology declined comment on the Phoenix protests, but provided a press release calling the group cyber-terrorists. "'Anonymous' is perpetrating religious hate crimes against Churches of Scientology and individual Scientologists for no reason other than religious bigotry," read the statement.

Protestors at the Phoenix church declined to reveal their identities, but all said they had learned about Anonymous through various websites denouncing Scientology while focusing on McPherson's death.

Protestors cheered when several cars honked at the protestors, who held signs that said, "Honk if you think Scientology kills."

Church members silently stood outside but away from the protestors.

Detective Troy Bartlett, of Phoenix Police, said the protest had remained peaceful and the protestors were allowed to stay as long as they wanted.

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