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Bill Cosby to face protest in Hamilton, called 'rapist' in London

01/09/2015 06:05 EST | Updated 03/11/2015 05:59 EDT
Hamilton protester Anne Bokma says she wants Bill Cosby to see his protesters. 

"We want Cosby to see and hear us," Bokma said ahead of Friday's show at the Hamilton Place Theatre, the final stop of an Ontario tour amid weeks of sexual assault allegations.

Cosby hasn't been charged with anything and through his lawyer has denied the allegations.

But following a standing ovation in Kitchener and a confrontation with a heckler in London, Bokma said Cosby shouldn't expect a warm welcome in Hamilton.

A protest is planned for both outside and inside Hamilton Place.

In London on Thursday night, Cosby was forced to confront the allegations that have dogged him for weeks when a heckler yelled out that the comedian was a rapist.

Cosby stood up as the crowd started to boo the man and asked them not to respond.

"No, no, stop," he said, waving his hands.

"Shh, no clapping right now. That's all right. Patience."

The man was removed from the theatre by a police officer while one member of the audience yelled to Cosby, "We love you." The embattled 77-year-old comedian then continued with his routine.

The same heckler had earlier yelled out, "We don't love you" while Cosby was on stage, to which the comedian responded with "OK" before carrying on with his joke.

Don't interact with protesters: Cosby

A few minutes earlier, a woman who got up from one of the front rows and walked past the stage was asked by Cosby where she was going.

When she answered that she was going to the lobby to grab a drink, Cosby responded with a line heavy with innuendo.

"You have to be careful about drinking around me," he said to loud applause.

Cosby had expected hecklers at his Ontario shows, and previously issued a rare statement advising fans not to interact with protesters and to "stay calm."

Cosby issued a statement after the show that read, "One outburst but over 2,600 loyal, patient and courageous fans enjoyed the most wonderful medicine that exist for human-kind. Laughter. I thank you, the theatre staff [Budweiser Gardens], the event organizers and the London, Ont., community for your continued honour and support. I'm far from finished."

In the Kitchener show, Cosby made no mention of the more than 15 women who have publicly alleged the comedian sexually assaulted them. The common theme among the alleged assaults, which were said to have occurred many years prior, beyond the statue of limitations to charge Cosby, was that he drugged them before assaulting them.

Bokma has said people who had bought tickets but no longer wanted to attend the show have offered up their tickets to her protest, to give to other women who are willing to go inside and disrupt the show.

Hamilton protest 'upset' about Kitchener standing ovation

She said she was "upset" to see Cosby get a standing ovation in Kitchener, and attributed it to an alternate event held for those who opposed Cosby amid the allegations. The alternative show raised an announced $7,400 for Women's Crisis Services and the Sexual Assault Centre of Waterloo Region. 

The theatre itself was between 50 and 75 per cent full. Audience members were met with a small group of protesters before and after the show.

Cosby himself was even ambushed by CBC comedy show This Hour Has 22 Minutes, by mock correspondent Abdul Butt.

"Hey, Bill, congratulations on your first show in 2015!" Butt yelled at Cosby as he left the Kitchener show Wednesday. "Way to start the year off with a bang! Hope it was consensual this time, though, Billy." 

The allegations against Cosby, known for his role as head of the Huxtable clan on the popular 1980s sitcom The Cosby Show, have not been proven in court. Bokma says people who hide behind this to defend supporting Cosby by going to his shows should use some "common sense."

"We have 30 women who have been victimized by Cosby in a very specific way over decades," Bokma said. "We believe these women… Nobody wants to be famous for being raped… Come on people, use your common sense."

The protest outside the Hamilton theatre is being organized by the Woman Abuse Working Group.

Its statement about the protest says: "While we question the support of alleged rapists, we are especially concerned about the message this sends to survivors of abuse and violence. We do not want this event to be about Mr. Cosby, we want this gathering to send a strong message to everyone in our community that we believe and stand by survivors."

The organizers are asking anyone who joins them not to heckle people going into the show.

Late Thursday, there were still quite a few tickets available.

Police in and out of uniform will be at Hamilton show

Scott Warren, general manager of FirstOntario Centre, Hamilton Place and the Molson Canadian Studio, has said the venue is not able to cancel Cosby's appearance. 

"The venue is not in a position to cancel the show as we have a legally binding contract with the promoter," Warren has said. "Cancelling the show would be a breach of contract and open us up to potential litigation."

Ike Richman, of Comcast-Spectacor, which manages the theatre, said police, both uniformed and in plainclothes, will be at the event in Hamilton. 

Richman said show-goers will be asked to leave if they protest inside the venue. They will not disrupt any protest outside the show, unless it blocks ticket holders from getting into the show.

Bokma said an estimated 400 people were expected to protest Thursday's London show.

As for her plans for disrupting the Hamilton appearance, she's keeping her numbers mum for now.

"It's not hard to find people to sit in those seats to protest," she added.  

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