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Leah Remini, Me And The Rodney King Riots

Updated on October 18, 2017
John A Duignan profile image

Wrote his account of his twenty years ‘in the Scientology fold’ published in 2008. Earned a BA at UCC in 2012. He is now a full time writer.

National Guard In LA 1992
National Guard In LA 1992

Cult Members in Zombi Mode Become A Human Shield

Leah Remini, of King of Queens fame, who made a rather dramatic exit from her erstwhile 'Spiritual Home', The 'Church' of Scientology back in 2013, is now headlining a new series with the A&E Network called 'Scientology And The Aftermath'. The program is worth watching, it is often deeply affecting and is always thoroughly informative as to the inner workings of the Scientology cult.

A recent episode, Series 2 Episode 5, details the rise of the current cult leader, David Miscavige and gives a startling insight into his management style. Miscavige assumed his current role as Chairman Of The Board - or COB as we members of Scientology's elite and fanatical inner core came to know him - shortly after I joined the military style management corps in 1985.

I remain deeply disturbed by my twenty plus year involvement in Scientology. I describe it as a cult, an appellation that Scientology Corporate vociferously contends. For a time after I made it out and back to civilization, I tried to distance myself from my past involvement with the organisation. Indeed for a year or two I actually succeeded. Working with an engineering crew in oft remote parts of Norway allows a certain degree of anonymity. But the experience in Scientology was as extraordinary as it was brutal. The post-cult nightmares and bouts of depression forced me to explore my experience anew, and from that came a book.

I thought I had put it all to bed with that, but then Leah came out with this television series and memories were stirred up. Memories that I feel I need to share, if nothing else, just to shed some light on what goes on behind the razor wire and the PR information lockdown that that the ‘Church’ of Scientology surrounds itself with.

The Rodney King riots of 1992 shocked a comfortably complacent America. The racial oppression and violence meted out by the LA Police against the African American Community at that time was about to explode. The spark that set it off was at first an April 1991 TV broadcast of the violent and unconscionable beating of Mr. King by a group of LA cops. And when the cops were acquitted in April 1992 of any wrongdoing, the community knew it had nothing more to lose and unleashed a wave of violence and fury upon the City of Los Angeles.

1992 found me back in LA. Living in the Scientology housing complex on Fountain Avenue and commuting daily to the twelve storey Management Centre on 6331 Hollywood Blvd undergoing year or two's worth of 'special' training in PR and Marketing.

Purchased outright in 1988 and opened as the Church corporation’s management hub in 1991, it was a building I was intimately familiar with. It seemed that every time I landed back in the US from postings in various parts of the far flung Scientology Empire, I would end up on renovations teams scraping old linoleum off of floors or manhandling buckets of rubble down precarious stairs.

Scientology uses its own people to do the dirty work. Ostensibly in ‘exchange’ for the mandatory training and indoctrination one receives at designated points during the sixteen hour long work days and 24/7 dedication to Scientology’s core purpose of ‘Clearing The Planet’. We may not have done a lot of planet clearing, but we certainly cleared up a lot of rubble.

Rumblings of trouble to come were not communicated to us by way of television and newspapers, these ‘luxuries’ were used only as tools by a designated cadre of executives and senior internal security personnel. No, we attended ‘musters’. These were rigidly managed staff roll calls and briefings held daily after the evening meal and before our next work shift that ended at the rather unsociable hour of 11pm. It is here, some days before the riots broke out, that we heard that trouble was brewing.

Groups of us were given a crash course in weaponry. The Security Chief taught us how to load, and unload magazines for a variety of hand and shot gun configurations. We were taught how to check the breech for bullets, how set safeties, how to hold and how to stow these weapons. I have no idea what I would have done if push came to shove, but I suppose it was no harm knowing how the things actually feel in the hand.

On the 30th, Thursday morning, we made our way as usual by crew bus from the Fountain Avenue housing units to the Management Hub. There was tension in the air. Nobody was allowed to walk the couple of miles to 6331 Hollywood. Something we often did, simply because it was the only chance we had to get some California vitamin D, fresh air and exercise before the close of business and heading back to our bunks - we lived communally, sleeping in three or four-stack bunk beds in dormitories - long after dark at 11pm.

Thursday ‘before two pm’ is very tense in the normal course of events. It is the last chance for all Staff and Sea Org people to ‘Get Their Statistics Up' before the week's books are closed out. The Scientology business by long tradition, runs from two pm Thursday to two pm the next Thursday. Everything stops on the dot of two o’clock. If your statistics are not up at two pm - a student might have a stat of ‘Pages Studied’ and Drills Signed off’ while a sales guy would have ‘Total Income From Sales’. A Commanding Officer would have the aggregate statistics of all of his staff in the sector or office concerned - you were in trouble.

Down statistics means no half day off on Saturday to do laundry, you would have to do it after 11pm when you got off work. It means even longer hours at your post and it leads to an Ethics Investigation and a rather brutal and intrusive interrogation. Not a nice place to be. So Thursday Before Two is quite manic and often hysterically fraught.

All crew were ordered to staff briefing at 6.30 pm. We were told that the proverbial had hit the fan and we all would be on building security duty until told to stand down. We were briefed that ‘Orders from the very top’ - code for David Miscavige himself - were to protect this building at any cost.

By 8pm that evening the city was a war zone, shooters and looters running riot in the streets. Rather than evacuating staff and boarding the place up, Miscavige’s orders were for the entire crew get down to the street and stand arm in arm around the building to protect the glass, stone and woodwork. The Scientology and Sea Org demographic at time was 95% white caucasian. This was due in the main to the racial income divide and the cost of doing Scientology services. One could, and to this day can, burn through half a million dollars on Scientology in less than two years.

In LA at the end of April 1992 white faces were a red flag to a bull. Miscavige had just provided the riots around 200 soft, white faced targets. Down the road on Normandie and Florence, white or even Spanish, drivers were being pulled out of their vehicles and beaten to a pulp.

I was directly in front of the huge plate glass windows, facing what is now Combo’s Pizza, and might well have been Citibank in 1992. Much of the lighting was out so it was difficult to see. I swear that there were gunfights and open violence a few blocks down on Highland and across on Sunset. We could hear gun shots, see and smell clouds of smoke from burning cars and buildings down the street. Helicopters, Fire Service and police sirens made it impossible to decipher conversations. We stood like idiots, directly in the line of fire surrounding the building. Most of us quite young; all horribly naive.

We formed a wall, a human shield, Sea Org slaves, were worth less to Miscavige and the corporate managers than the glass, brass and wood of the Hollywood Guaranty Building.

To this day I am still in shock that Miscavige, in his sociopathic lunacy, would consider using our bodies to protect his stupid, and fully insured Building. None of us were insured however. It could have been a bloodbath.

We must have been out there an hour before the local cops and city politicians woke up to what we were doing and demanded that we be taken indoors and away to safety.

It was insanity writ large. The 'group mentality' normalised such behaviours. The rigid discipline, the endless conditioning to comply to orders without question made this utterly within the bounds of what was 'normal'. That is what is astonishing for me when I look back at it. That this was 'just another drill'.

That we were to simply stand there and act as a kind of soft insulation for the precious building. That we would take the impact of bullets,flagstones and other forms of missile and the lovely granite and polished brass would remain unscarred, just requiring a bit of blood being wiped off once things calmed down.

I remain utterly astounded at the asinine level of blind, sheeplike stupidity we displayed in obeying that order unquestioningly. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that there is no such thing as Brain Washing.

© 2017 john duignan


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