'Anonymous' Take to 'Tube, Streets in Anti-Scientology Protest

The L.A. Times’ Web Scout blog posted a story last night about a group of Web types protesting the Church of Scientology in Los Angeles and dozens of other cities around the world—including the church’s Manhattan location on West 46th Street (see video above!).

This mysterious group goes by the name Anonymous and has called for a war on Scientology, the uniform for which, at least from this video, appears to be a Guy Fawkes mask like the one the protagonist in the Wachowski Brothers’ V for Vendetta wore.

When Web Scout asked the Church of Scientology about the protests, the organization released a statement: “’Anonymous’ is a group of cyber-terrorists who hide their identities behind masks and computer anonymity,” that statement read in part. “[It] is perpetrating religious hate crimes against Churches of Scientology and individual Scientologists for no reason other than religious bigotry.”

Judge for yourself: On Jan. 21, the group posted an eerie video with a computer-generated voice on YouTube that laid down the gauntlet when it said: “Anonymous has therefore decided that your organization should be destroyed.”

The video, which has more than 2 million views, also referenced the church video of Tom Cruise that got leaked online earlier this year and taken down when the church threatened copyright infringement before being posted again.

‘Anonymous’ apparently viewed this as an attack on free speech and it served as one of the catalysts for its opposition to Scientology.

(In the video interview, Cruise said that Scientologists are “the authorities on the mind” and “the way to happiness.”)

Just before the protests on Sunday the group released another YouTube video reiterating its goal to destroy Scientology through non-violent means. Before moving to public demonstrations, the group spread critical Scientology stories and videos online. Wired magazine’s Threat Level blog reported that the group also hacked into the church’s Web site and overloaded its servers.