Note: More photos can be found at the new Temple of Xenu photostream.

Today was a protest at East Grinstead, the UK headquarters of the Cult of Scientology. The town contains a number of Scientology institutions and businesses, as well as being the closest town to Saint Hill Manor – a stately home once occupied by L Ron Hubbard, now host to Scientologists from around the world and one of just five Advanced Organisations in existence. One major goal for Scientology is to have every Org reach Saint Hill Size. Nearby is Crowborough, site of Sea Org accomodation and the Rehabilitation Project Force.

So, in terms of enturbulation, fairly high on the scale.

With shades of Clearwater, local businesses had apparently been “warned” about Anonymous’ presence and issued with flyers to place in their windows to indicate Anonymous as being barred. Few seemed to have taken up their kind invitation. Such a waste.

This refusal, however, seemed typical. A number of locals joined the protest at various times through the day, while others shouted or honked their support. According to one, ordinary Saturdays would see the Sea Org proudly marching about town in full uniform. None were seen today – visibly, at any rate. I’m not sure what Hubbard had to say about hiding out of town when the SPs show up, but it’s unlikely to be anything positive.

While the police were generally co-operative, one protestor was threatened with arrest if he did not remove a sign reading “Scientology is an evil brainwashing cult.” This is concerning, coming as it does just weeks after the Epic Nose Guy incident. Why are the police so keen to protect the feelings of a criminal organisation?

After spending a few hours in East Grinstead, the protest made an impromptu relocation – to the gates of Saint Hill itself. Some enterprising Anons managed to make cunning use of signs and the Saint Hill entrance plaque, while others spent time with two Scientologists filming the protest from bushes nearby. (Hiding in bushes, OSA? ToX expects better…)

Bush Scilon…is mostly foliage.

This was followed by a general wander all around the site, around past the castle, past some EPF doing their thing, past a group of people who mysteriously ran inside and closed the blinds on the protest’s arrival (OT powers evidently not up to the task of holding the fearsome mob at bay); each with opportunities for a pause, discussion, photo-op, as appropriate.

The significance of this should not be understated. Saint Hill Manor, as described earlier, has major status within Scientology, due to the Hubbard connection, its use as a model for other Orgs, and its being the headquarters of Scientology in the UK. For a protest to spontaneously relocate there, and for its residents to have to come into contact with opposition from the outside world without warning, is thus a major issue.

Having completed the loop around the site a second protest was held at the front gates. No shrubbery-enshrouded Scientologists, this time, but rickrolls and OT3s were shared by all. Drama aside – an ex-Scientologist attempted to engage a current Scientologist in debate and passed them a copy of a report proving squirreling within the RTC, the Scientologist hurled it violently back at him – the day ended well.

* * *

I would like to end this report with a personal plea. On entering East Grinstead, I and another protestor were approached by a local resident who was initially confused – and perhaps a little concerned – by the masks we were wearing. As soon as it was explained that we were there protesting against Scientology, the confusion turned to joy. On the way to the protest, we were again stopped, and got into a lengthy chat with a man who had lived in East Grinstead for years and was sickened by what he saw Scientology doing to his town. He was absolutely ecstatic at these protests, and seemed almost overcome with emotion that finally, someone, somewhere was doing something about this cult.

The same happened throughout the day. From a casual thumbs up to a long, impassioned discussion on the evils the cult had brought with it, from a resident who think’s they’re a bit odd to victim of their persecution, the feeling was palpable. Being able to look down a street and name the Scientology-affiliated businesses, not being able to stop for a drink for fear the pubs would be filled with OSA. Scientology was here, it was strong, and it was hated.

East Grinstead is, in my view, significant in two key respects. Firstly, it is of major significance within Scientology. Secondly, and perhaps of equal importance, it is a microcosm of what the cult would like to do to the UK as a whole. Large amounts of property in the area are owned by the cult, as are a number of businesses – search for “east grinstead scientology” (without the quotes) for an idea of the scale. What influence they have, they use, and they always want more.

For these reasons I believe it is important that anti-Scientology activists, particularly those based in the UK, recognise the significance of East Grinstead and Saint Hill and commit resources to exposing what goes on there, and in particular at the Sea Org (and RPF) base at Crowborough. In addition to this, at some point in the future, I would like to propose holding a mass UK-wide convergence on Saint Hill.

The last thing one of the East Grinstead residents said to me before he left was quite simple: When are you coming back? I told him I wasn’t sure when, but we would be.

We come back.