A Giant Has Passed
It is heartbreaking tonight to see the news that Gabe Cazares has died. He was a terrific man, a brave man and a kind man. I’m so glad I had a chance to meet him and share some time with him while I lived in his town of Clearwater, Florida.
I’m afraid I don’t have the words to convey how important Gabe was and why I truly consider him an American hero. He stood up to Scientology when they snuck into his town under an assumed name. He was the mayor at the time and took it upon himself to find out who this group was and why they came to his town under a cloud of lies and fraud.
For his efforts, Gabe was targeted by Scientology’s Guardian’s Office which set out to destroy his political career and his personal life with a series of covert actions including a phony hit and run accident and calls to his wife from giggly female Scientologists pretending to have a relationship with Gabe. I documented some of this on the LMT website back in 2000. You can read that material here.
The St. Pete Times has an obituary for Gabe.
CLEARWATER — Former Clearwater Mayor Gabe Cazares, a civil rights advocate, champion of the disadvantaged and arch-enemy of the Church of Scientology, died Friday (Sept. 29, 2006). He was 86.
As a politician, Mr. Cazares led the local Democratic Party and won public office at a time when few Hispanics even lived in Pinellas County.
As a community activist, he worked to help the poor and build bridges in Clearwater during the early years of integration. But after the Church of Scientology came to town in late 1975, Mr. Cazares became an outspoken critic, prompting Scientologists to hatch plans to smear him with sex allegations and a phony hit-and-run accident.
Mr. Cazares questioned the church’s motives, its quiet purchases of downtown property and the way its security guards carried billy clubs and Mace.
“I am unable to understand why this degree of security is required by a religious organization, and my concerns are shared by many other citizens,” Mr. Cazares said in January 1976.
Within months, Clearwater was enveloped in a hostile, polarized environment marked by spying, sharp rhetoric, protests and smear tactics — some of them targeting Mr. Cazares.
Federal investigators later found Scientology internal memos outlining plans by church leaders to control public opinion in Clearwater, concoct a sex smear campaign against Mr. Cazares and infiltrate the local media and other institutions.
Scientology documents also revealed that church members had staged a phony hit-and-run accident with Mr. Cazares in an attempt to discredit him.
The criminal investigation led to prison sentences against 11 high-ranking Scientologists for breaking into federal offices in Washington.
When the smoke eventually cleared, a $1.5-million defamation lawsuit filed by Mr. Cazares and his wife against the church was settled out of court in 1986. It was one of several suits between Mr. Cazares and the church over the years.
“Gabe saw Scientology as a threat to the city and very aggressively pointed those potential problems out to the electorate,” said Ron Stuart, a former editor of the Clearwater Sun, who was also targeted by Scientologists.
“He quickly got on the Scientologists’ enemy list,” said Stuart, now the spokesman for the Pinellas-Pasco judicial circuit. “That was the atmosphere in the city at the time. Gabe didn’t let it faze him. He stayed on it.”
There was so much more to Gabe’s life and the Time’s story can fill you in on some of that but to those of us who follow Scientology’s fraud and abuse, there were few who could match his courage and tenacity.
Here is a video Gabe made in the 1980’s for a local historical society. He is joined by journalist Wayne Shelor who would later become the PR person for the Clearwater Police Department.
RIP Gabe Cazares.Explore posts in the same categories: Uncategorized