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Anonymous activists to hit the streets

Scientology and Assange to get masked visitation

Protestors associated with the online activism group Anonymous will hit the streets of London twice this week, in criticism of Scientology and in support of Julian Assange.

Buoyed by its current high profile, a result of interest in its recent DDoS attacks on Visa, Mastercard and Amazon, the group has issued a call for global action, drenched in freedom-fighting rhetoric.

Declaring "we are done waiting for someone to save us from tyranny and censorship" - accompanied by an angry rock soundtrack - Anonymous members will on Saturday target Scientology buildings in London.

International gatherings on the 15th will be in direct support of WikiLeaks, but UK activists have an appointment with Assange earlier in the week.

Anonymous is a long-term enemy of the Church of Scientology, citing its aggressive supression of critics online. The activists attracted attention for the first time almost three years ago when they briefly shut down the controversial organisation's website.

That attack was followed in 2008 in London and other cities by a series of protests outside Scientology buildings, but in more recent years Anonymous has concentrated efforts online, against the entertainment industry and other elements its members believe damage internet freedom.

"The internet needs champions and we will rise," the video promoting this week's renewed real world action warns.

Before Saturday, Anonymous members will protest against Sweden's attempt to extradite Julian Assange in relation to alleged sex crimes, which he denies. The Wikileaks founder is due in Belmarsh Magistrates' Court tomorrow for the preliminary hearing, having spent the festive period on bail at a manor house in East Anglia.

The protest outside the court is not being organised by Anonymous, and will be attended by disparate Assange-supporters. However, it's likely many will wear Anonymous' signature Guy Fawkes mask, borrowed from V for Vendetta.

Members typically laud Assange, and @AnonOps, a Twitter account that is the closest thing Anonymous has to an "official" mouthpiece, tweets exclusively in support of him and WikiLeaks.

In a typical proclamation, from mid-December, @AnonOps said "people are the owners of internet, not governments, not corporations".

Such doctrine is at odds with reality almost everywhere on Earth, but it reveals the thinking - or faith - behind Anonymous. The question of whether its recent wider exposure can convert internet notoriety to bodies on the streets of the capital will be answered this week. ®

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