HAMILTON, Ontario — About two dozen protesters disrupted Bill Cosby’s stand-up comedy show on Friday night. The protesters heckled and shouted during the opening minutes of the event in protest of unanswered sexual assault allegations leveled against the veteran comic.
Wearing matching T-shirts and carrying posters smuggled into the venue, the protesters stood up and began blowing whistles, chanting “We believe the women” before police and security removed them. One protester called Cosby an “arrogant piece of shit.”
Audience members quickly shouted back, chanting “We believe the man,” “Innocent until proven guilty” and “We love you Bill.”
The show, in a bitterly cold Hamilton, was the last in a three-leg tour of Ontario for the comedian. Anticipating a similar disruption to his two previous gigs in London and Kitchener, Cosby preempted the protest and appealed to the audience to remain calm in the face of provocation. There was a strong police and security presence at the venue and all protesters were removed with relative ease. There were no arrests.
The group inside the venue had broken off from a larger protest which had assembled outside the Hamilton Place Theatre, organized by the Hamilton Sexual Assault Centre.
Protest organizer Lenore Lukasik-Foss said the protest was about offering support to survivors of sexual assault, rather than relying on the justice system. “Over and over we’ve heard in the media that he hasn’t been charged with anything. But it’s not about him—it’s about the women who’ve come forward. If a loved one told you they were raped would you wait for them to be charged to support them?” she said.
Protester and Hamilton resident Melissa Knowles said “I’m just giving a voice to those who don’t have one. I think that when a woman comes forward it gives other women the courage to do so. Cosby should have cancelled his show. I want Bill Cosby to answer for his crimes.”
A group of Men’s Human Rights Activists were also in attendance at the event in solidarity with Cosby. Daniel Perrins of A Voice for Men said “Bill Cosby is entitled to due process. He hasn’t been charged with any crime and should be left in peace. Lynch mob justice is not justice.”
Perrins’ sentiments were echoed by many of the attendees at the event. Hamilton resident Deb Grier said the protest was “unfair” and questioned the motives of those who made the allegations: “why wait all this time? Why didn’t they go to the police when this happened?” Grier said. Attendee Danny Herne said, “I thought there would be more protesters. He [Cosby] didn’t look like he was affected by it at all, but he’s innocent until proven guilty.
The show proved extremely popular with Hamiltonians. The anticipated mass ticket dump didn’t transpire as predicted, with the venue ending up some three-quarters full. Cosby finished the show by telling the audience that he intended to return to Hamilton in two years time—and that he hoped by then “all the protesters outside will be inside the hall together to experience the gift of laughter.”
Cosby left the stage to a standing ovation.