Cruise and Holmes Stir Up Anti-Scientology Protesters

Katie Holmes' Broadway debut marked by protests by masked members of Anonymous

Sept. 19, 2008 — -- The real drama at Katie Holmes' Broadway debut in "All My Sons" Thursday night took place on the sidewalk outside the theater where Scientology supporters scrapped with protesters from Anonymous, the underground group that has waged war against the church since the beginning of this year.

While Tom Cruise, the best-known Scientology member, mingled with Holmes, Dustin Hoffman and cast members John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest and Patrick Wilson inside the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, several dozen members of Anonymous chanted and picketed, holdings signs protesting the church.

The mysterious group of masked men and computer hackers, who say they are committed to dismantling the powerful religious organization, has picketed at Scientology centers around the world, hacked into the church's Web site and has been accused of harassing church officials.

Before the curtain rose on the Arthur Miller play, supporters of the church faced off against members of Anonymous, who often wear masks inspired by the movie "V for Vendetta," at nearby Bryant Park in New York City.

Scientologists are seen handing out fliers listing names of several Anonymous members and FAQs critical of the group, in a video posted to YouTube today.

In the video, one Anonymous member reads aloud from the flier, which apparently describes the underground group as "the face of chaos and harbingers of judgment" who "laugh in the face of tragedy."

One masked member is shown mocking a middle-aged female Scientologist, asking, "What's my name?" The woman replies, "I don't know yet but one day, we'll know."

In the video, while Anonymous members chant "We have a date at the theater" and "Free Katie!," another Scientologist supporter starts yelling "Halloween is over!" and "Get your medication! Get your Prozac!" in a reference to the church's harsh stance on the use of pharmaceutical drugs.

The protest was one of the most high-profile recent skirmishes between the groups ever since Anonymous first emerged in January, sending messages to the church which threatened to destroy the organization. At previous protests, several members of Anonymous have been arrested for disturbing the peace.

And earlier this month, a group called the American Rights Counsel sent more than 4,000 takedown notices to YouTube, claiming that numerous videos about the church infringed on its copyrights, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Videos targeted for takedown included Anonymous protest videos and hearings of the city council in Clearwater, Fla., the spiritual headquarters of the church, according to the EFF.

A spokeswoman for the church did not respond to an e-mail asking for comment. Several members of Anonymous, who have previously discussed their beliefs with, did not reply to e-mails seeking comment.