Two protesters arrested, cited outside Church of Scientology compound

The Press-Enterprise, California/February 24, 2009

Two protesters were arrested on suspicion of blocking the driveway to the Church of Scientology's compound near Hemet during a small demonstration following Riverside County's board of supervisors meeting Tuesday.

Sheriff's deputies arrested Mark Bunker and Douglas Owens shortly before 2 p.m., releasing them later with citations for trespassing, said Lt. Patricia Knudson. They did so after church members made citizens' arrests, she said.

Knudson said church members and deputies observed protesters blocking the entrance to the large compound along Gilman Springs Road in Gilman Hot Springs. But protesters say they were neither trespassing nor blocking the entryway.

The arrests followed a supervisors meeting in Riverside in which protesters and church members debated a proposed anti-picketing ordinance that the church supports. The proposed ordinance would ban pickets within 30 feet of any targeted residences, including dormitories at the Scientology compound.

Demonstrators say they are protesting because the church abuses members at the base, charges the church says are lies.

Bunker said five protesters walked in front of the property, crossing the driveway at times, which the law permits, he said. Deputies parked their car in the driveway of the Scientology base and arrested Owens, he said. Bunker said when he then photographed deputies, they arrested him.

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