Protesters arrested at anti-Scientology event in Atlanta

Sunday, March 16, 2008

While protesting outside the Scientology Church of Georgia in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, two members of the group Anonymous were arrested by DeKalb County riot police while standing opposite the Church of Scientology-owned building.

The two protesters, who earlier participated in the delivery of a 'global speech' collaboratively written and read by members of Anonymous at protests worldwide, are believed to have been charged by Dekalb police for protesting without a permit and causing 'offensive or hazardous conditions'. However, other members of Anonymous who took leading roles in arranging the protest are adamant that the Dekalb police had previously told them they did not need a permit to protest.

Video of the arrest

The arrests were filmed by other members of Anonymous who subsequently posted the videos onto popular video-sharing website YouTube. The videos show a very quick arrest in which the arresting officers did not read the Miranda rights of the protesters, which—contrary to popular belief—is only required to be read before a police officer interviews someone in custody. This was confirmed by other members of the group who say they didn't hear their rights being read before they were led away. "They were grabbed and taken behind the complex in one swift strike. There was no Miranda rights read when they were initially grabbed" said one member of Anonymous interviewed by Wikinews.

In other videos published on YouTube, the same members of Anonymous were shown thanking police for their work and offering them some of the cake members of Anonymous had brought to the protest, shortly before they were arrested.

Members of Anonymous have composed an open letter to Dekalb's Chief of Police, asking if such a show of police strength was really needed at a non-violent protest organised and attended mainly by college students and young Americans.

Protester holding up sign at anti-Scientology protest in Atlanta, Georgia, after Police began issuing tickets to cars that honked.
Image: Tim Dorr.

Drivers showing their support for the protesters by honking their car horns while driving past were followed by police bikes waiting in the Scientology building's driveway and given tickets for violating noise ordinance laws. However, many members of Anonymous have voiced confusion over these tickets, as the honks of support were only 2-3 seconds in duration at most, and noise ordinance laws state a horn must be sounded for longer than 60 seconds to count as a violation of the law. When, after the arrests were made, the police started to adopt the policy of ticketing drivers who honked, members of Anonymous quickly raised "Do not honk" signs to drivers.

Both of the members of Anonymous have been released, one with a bail of $763.00. There are confirmed to be two charges standing against one. No information has been released from the police department at this point.

They did no wrong, and that building they were led into was reportedly the Scientology Org building.

—Kalira, Doomfeller blog

Initial reaction from bloggers was generally critical of the arrests. Kalira of Doomfeller blog wrote: "This is UNACCEPTABLE. They did no wrong, and that building they were led into was reportedly the Scientology Org building. If the police—nay, the walking tanks, totally uncalled for with a peaceful protest—had them unmask inside ... suffice it to say if they get harassed, there will be great big steaming piles of hell to pay."

Scientology critic Jeff Jacobsen, who was interviewed by Wikinews on February 19, wrote on his blog: "But then I see that the Atlanta police arrested two Anons, and were even stopping cars that honked in approval of the protest! Is Atlanta not a part of the United States? I don't get it."

Police stand outside the Church of Scientology building


The videos and arrests have sparked outrage amongst members of the public and Anonymous, and Wikinews interviewed members of Anonymous who were at the Atlanta protest on Saturday:

 ((Wikinews )) What was your initial reaction to the arrests at the protest?

Anonymous 1: Just disbelief. On February 10th, the police were completely cool, and we heard they liked us.

 ((WN )) What has been your experience dealing with the Atlanta police?

Anonymous 1: Usually the police are very chilled with the protests and such. This is the first time that I can recall them acting like this.
Anonymous 2: They really didn't talk to us at all at the last protest. Several people had called in before both protests to confirm that we didn't need a permit and that everything was OK- they knew we were coming, and so on- but at this protest initial requests to get more information from the officers were either ignored or met with hostility.

 ((WN )) Was there any statement issued by police on what the two arrested individuals were arrested for?

Anonymous 2: Originally I heard that they couldn't answer that, but then people started saying it was for inciting disorder and for protesting without a permit. We had contacted the police department earlier, and were told that we wouldn't need a permit.


This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.
  Learn more about Project Chanology and Anonymous on Wikipedia.