I don’t think I have had this much fun in a long time…

March 23, 2008, 11:44 AM

I will tell you this: I had SO much fun on Saturday. And to think I was worried about what to expect.

The event I went to was a demonstration by Anonymous against the Church of Scientology, which was having a convention at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in DC. The protest was about the Church of Scientology’s practices and tax exempt status, with signs quoting L. Ron Hubbard as saying, “I’d like to start a religion. That’s where the money is!” as well as various signs relating to the organization’s tax-exempt status, as well as mentions of, the Web site of “Operation Clambake”.

Let me draw a distinction here – we were not protesting Scientology the religion. If people want to practice Scientology, that’s their business, and more power to them. Our beef was with the Church of Scientology organization, and its various practices. In other words, we took issue with organized religion and the abuses that follow in so many of its instances, but not the religion itself.

So here’s the story.

I got on the Metro around 3:00 PM for this protest at 4:00, and rode over to Woodley Park-Zoo station. Now as this was a protest from a group called “Anonymous”, and having done my homework, I knew that people would be possibly dressed outlandishly, and per the “Anonymous” theme, all wearing masks. It really started on the Metro, when, on Rohr 1061, some people got on – one wearing a mask of the likeness of the Burger King mascot The Burger King, one wearing a panda mask, and another wearing a simple bandanna.

Leaving the Metro, at the top of the Woodley Park-Zoo escalator, was the rest of the group. The people were almost all masked. Many wore Guy Fawkes masks. After a quick pit stop, I joined them. Not exactly knowing what to expect, and going with the supplies that I already owned, I opted for my standard black bloc outfit. However, I wore a bandanna that I would not usually wear in a black bloc – a blue one with the “paisley” pattern on it. I usually don’t wear a patterned one at anti-war or World Bank/IMF demonostrations because I prefer solid, but this was different. There were no political movements being promoted here, thus I didn’t want to wear the red bandanna or the black one. However, later, as the blue one became wet from exhalation moisture, I did switch to the green one I wore at March 17 last year. That one was still pretty neutral, as I went green that time since the march was on St. Patrick’s Day.

So after masking up with these people, I grabbed a sign. After all, I am currently without a camera, so I joined in. At first, not knowing any of these people, it felt kind of lonely, since this was definitely not my usual anti-war and anti-capitalist crowd. However, guess who came out of the escalator at Woodley Park-Zoo before too long – Isis! And with her she brought her children plus Jeff. Friends of mine – yay! Isis and I shared a big hello hug. And then, this being an Anonymous protest, Isis reached into her pocket and handed her girls bandannas, which they promptly used to mask up with the rest of us. Later, they found that their bandannas were quite itchy due to their having cat hair on them. However, once they found out that one person in the group was handing out surgical masks, they jumped at the opportunity.

And here you are:

Masked up in surgical masks

Reactions to our group by passers-by were generally positive. We got some supportive honks from cars passing by, and some people even slowed down to get a better look, causing some minor traffic congestion on 24th Street NW.

Then at 6:00, we all gathered together, since there was also going to be a convention in Crystal City following the protest. This was to be AnonyCon, which was a convention of the DC area Anonymous group. To get there, we were taking Metro. We certainly must have been a sight going into the Metro, as most stayed masked in the Metro. Honestly, it reminded me of the video about the SARS epidemic in Hong Kong, showing everyone on the subway in masks, especially since we had a lot of surgical masks in the crowd. In fact, while on Metro, they passed out surgical masks for everyone, so that if anyone asked, people could just say they were sick. Okay, sure. At Gellery Pl-Chinatown, as we got in the first car of the train, we got a very surprised look from the train operator of Breda 3213.

Then at Crystal City, we all got off the train and headed to the street. We were headed to the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, and took to the street to get there. We walked down this street and that street, and then took a pedestrian tunnel under US 1 to finally reach the hotel. All went well, except when I mis-stepped near a curb, and nearly took a spill along the street. Thankfully, Isis caught me before I fell. At one point in our walk, we were discussing Japanese Anime, and, in showing that we don’t take ourselves too seriously, we came up with, “What did we watch? ANIME! When did we watch it? NOW!” No, it doesn’t make any sense, but who cares?

At AnonyCon, which was streamed live on the Internet, we started with a few opening ceremonies and had a bit of fun, including an auction of silly items, plus a showing of the video Message to Scientology. There were also a few speeches. As the speeches went on, we were also able to watch the chat that was going on with our live Internet feed, as the chat was being projected onto the screen. Some of that was downright hilarious. Isis commented that she had never seen so many computer and anime geeks together in one room before. Jeff commented that it looked like I’d fit right in with this bunch. And you know, he’s right – I definitely would fit right in. The computer they were using for the feed was a Mac!

After the speeches, everyone split for dinner. The group had made reservations at the hotel’s 19th floor restaurant, and so we went up. How strange it was to see all of us going through this nice hotel and up the elevator to their restaurant, all in our masks. However, owing to the fact that it was really expensive, and that we had to keep our sound down to a minimum, Isis, Jeff, Isis’s kids, and a few others, decided to leave for dinner and come back. We went over to the Holiday Inn across the street and ate in their diner. They were also a tad expensive, but less so than the Hyatt. But the food was good, and we didn’t have to keep our voices way down.

On the way back to the Hyatt, we lamented the fact that Crystal City is so unwalkable at street level, owing to its 1960s-era design.

And when we returned, two words came to mind: DANCE PARTY! Yes, it was time for AnonyRave, which was just like it sounded – a rave. The music was loud, peppy, and festive, we had glow sticks, glow necklaces, silly string, and green and white balloons, and we were in there! And it’s true what they say – being masked lowers people’s inhibitions, as we were dancing up a storm. I don’t normally dance, but I was out there dancing up a storm with the rest of them in my red bandanna, along with the rest of us masked up in the hotel ballroom. We had everything – the Burger King, Pandas, Guy Fawkes masks, surgical masks, bandannas, you name it – all dancing up a storm. I didn’t recognize most of the songs, but one particular one was recognizable – “What Is Love” by Haddaway. That’s the one that goes, “What is love/Baby don’t hurt me/Don’t hurt me no more”. Oh, it was so awesome. And when the numbers started to die down on the floor, a number of people on the Internet chat feed implored for us to get back up and continue dancing. Once a number of us got going again, the chatters commented that we were dancing to entertain them.

And we got photos:






What a fun evening! Jeff, Isis, and the rest of us stayed at AnonyCon until midnight. We then split, with three of us going back to the Metro to go home, and the rest going back to Isis’s house. While Isis certainly wanted me to come back to her house with her kids and Jeff, I politely declined, as I had stuff I needed to do on Sunday. We caught the Metro at Pentagon City, and that was it! I didn’t get home until almost 2 AM, and I was very tired, but what an awesome time I had.

So all in all, I had a good time, and the masks certainly lowered everyone’s inhibitions enough to allow us all to have a huge blast. I’m sure we were quite a sight for everyone watching us on the Internet. And I noticed that Isis, when masked up, bears a striking resemblance to Ask a Chola. And who knows – I might go to a few more Anonymous events in the future. After all, some of the Church of Scientology’s practices are definitely questionable, and someone has to bring this to light, and this is a group that I’ll definitely be comfortable around. And I haven’t had this much fun in a LONG time…

Web site: Anonymous DC

Song: "What Is Love" by Haddaway

Quote: By the way, I found out that this photo from the J20 set is Jeff! And I thought that Jeff made his Schumin Web debut in 2007... turns out he's been on Schumin Web since 2005!

Categories: Project Chanology