Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pet lovers and Scientology critics converge on Clearwater

CLEARWATER — Clearwater's petite downtown district was primed for the perfect storm on Saturday.

On one end of downtown, 135 masked members of the group Anonymous began gathering at about 10 a.m. to protest the Church of Scientology.

Just a few blocks away, animal lovers brought their dogs for Clearwater's annual pet fair, which was unrelated to the church.

The dark-suited, boisterous protestors might have disrupted the owner-pet look-a-like contest and other festivities, but the two groups stayed apart. And Saturday's daylong protest — about half the size of the two preceding ones — ended with no arrests.

Anonymous, a loosely organized group that formed on the Internet, used the demonstration to target what it calls the church's "cruel and inhumane" policy. The group says that Scientology requires church members to disconnect from friends and relatives who have left the fold.

The group rented out the Royalty Theatre downtown and two former Scientologists — Mike Henderson and Creed Pearson — spoke about the pain they suffered from not being allowed to contact relatives still in the church.

"I can't speak to my brother or my four sisters," Henderson said in a tearful speech. "I have attempted to speak to my son and my daughter and my mother, to no avail."

After the presentation, Anonymous members, whom the church has likened to terrorists and Ku Klux Klansmen, retired to Coachman Park for pizza and cake.

The group made three circuits of downtown, shouting slogans and drawing honks from passing cars.

Scientologists sitting in front of Starbucks said they didn't care for the protesters.

"It's a group that just spews hate. Who has time for it?" said Dwight Matheny.

"They're like the barking dog at the wheels of a fire engine going to a fire," said Bob Johnson, 56, a Scientologist visiting from California.

Church spokeswoman Pat Harney said Henderson and Pearson, not the church, are to blame for their broken family relationships.

"If they want to take responsibility for past wrongs and repair their relations with their families," she said, "the church would be more than happy to help."

The protest wrapped up just before 5 p.m. The group plans to return to Clearwater next month.

Jonathan Abel can be reached at or (727)


Pet lovers and Scientology critics converge on Clearwater 04/12/08 [Last modified: Thursday, April 17, 2008 9:52am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trump reveals that he didn't record Comey after all


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump declared Thursday he never made and doesn't have recordings of his private conversations with ousted former FBI director James Comey, ending a monthlong guessing game that he started with a cryptic tweet and that ensnared his administration in yet more controversy.

    President Donald Trump said Thursday that he didn’t record his conversations with James Comey.
  2. Lightning fans, don't get attached to your first-round draft picks

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — When Lightning GM Steve Yzerman announces his first-round pick tonight in the amateur draft at No. 14, he'll invite the prospect onto the stage for the once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) eludes  Montreal Canadiens left wing Phillip Danault (24) during the second period of Wednesday???‚??„?s (12/28/16) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens at the Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  3. Investigation Discovery TV show profiles 2011 Landy Martinez murder case


    The murder of a St. Petersburg man will be featured this week on a new true crime series Murder Calls on Investigation Discovery.

    Jose Adame sits in a Pinellas County courtroom during his 2016 trial and conviction for first-degree murder. Adame was convicted of first-degree murder last year for torturing and then executing his boyfriend as he pleaded for his life in 2011. Now it will be featured in a new true crime series Murder Calls on Investigation Discovery. The episode will air on June 26 at 9 p.m. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  4. Uhuru mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel protests exclusion from debate


    ST. PETERSBURG — Jesse Nevel, the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement candidate for mayor, on Thursday demanded that he be allowed to participate in a July 25 televised debate between incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and challenger Rick Baker.

    Mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel holds a news conference outside the headquarters of the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday to protest his exclusion from the mayoral debate. Nevel is a member of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement.
  5. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman also has top-9 wing on his wish list

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — Much has been made about the Lightning's interest in bolstering its blue line, even after last week's acquisition of defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev.

    Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman gestures as he speaks to the media about recent trades during a news conference before an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning, over the past few days, have traded goaltender Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings, forward Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and forward Valtteri Filppula to the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA101