Mid-Sussex District Council and Sussex Police have given the final approvals needed for next week’s UK Scientology protest to go ahead. The demonstration, which is expected to be the largest of its kind in England since the Anonymous movement in 2008, has received widespread international news coverage this week following a Guardian article announcing the plans.
The International Association of Scientologists (IAS) is due to gather in East Grinstead, Sussex next week for the first time in four years after its global events program was put on hold due to the pandemic. Church leader David Miscavige, who is currently evading process servers in multiple lawsuits alleging human trafficking, harassment and intimidation, is expected to arrive in the UK imminently aboard a private jet to host the event.
In what is understood to be his first public appearance in 10 months, the reclusive commander-in-chief is set to take the stage at Scientology’s Saint Hill headquarters next Friday to update parishioners on the Church’s “achievements in planetary salvage from the last four years”. However, protest plans put together by Scientology Business editor Alexander “Apostate Alex” Barnes-Ross have already gained greater media attention with several major news outlets reporting on it throughout the week.
The Guardian’s coverage quickly became one of the top 10 most-read articles on their website, which attracts an average of 86 million unique readers a month. Newsweek, which reaches 50 million monthly readers also picked up the story, meaning the protest is likely to be considered a “major flap” among top Scientology executives.
Today the plans were given approval from Mid-Sussex District council and Sussex Police, allowing protestors to march through East Grinstead town centre and onwards to the Saint Hill base on Friday 3rd November, to coincide with the IAS event.
Activists are expected to arrive at the Scientology headquarters by 3pm, where they plan to picket the event with signs highlighting the allegations made against its leader and offering support to Scientologists looking to exit the organisation. In a statement to Newsweek earlier today, the organiser explained “the protest will be a peaceful demonstration carrying a message of compassion—we want to let Scientologists know there is a community of people here to support them if they choose to leave.”
In response, the Church claimed those taking part were ‘a small handful of bigots intent on harassing a religious convocation’ and went on to attack the organiser: “Alexander Barnes-Ross was kicked out of the Church over a decade ago. No one heard from him until he joined and promoted a hate group online.”
On his blog, former spokesperson Mike Rinder described the response as “oh-so-typical” for the Church, explaining the press coverage is “clearly not good news for the COB [Chairman of the Board, David Miscavige] and scientology.”
Despite their description of the event as a “religious convocation”, the IAS gathering does not involve any of the services like group auditing it has previously argued are religious in court cases. Instead, it serves as a major fundraising event for Scientology and hence their desperation to discredit and downplay the protest activity.
For more information about the Scientology protest and to register to attend, head to iasprotest.com. It will also be live streamed on Youtube across the weekend, with the action expected to kick off at around 2:30pm GMT (10.30am EDT / 6.30am PDT).
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