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Standing Up to the Power of Power: A Demonstration Against Bill Cosby

Anne Bokma is organizing a demonstration tonight against Bill Cosby on behalf of the 30 women who say he has sexually assaulted them.

By Ryan McGreal
Published January 09, 2015

Here's a stark example of the power of power:

A popular, beloved celebrity has been dogged his entire career by accusations of sexual assault. Not just one or two women, mind, but dozens of women from across the country and across the decades.

These women didn't know about each other, yet their descriptions trace an eerily similar pattern of behaviour that includes being drugged without consent and waking up to find they had been molested.

This celebrity has never been charged with a crime, let alone convicted, in connection with any of these sexual assault allegations. In 2006, he settled a civil sexual assault claim with 13 other witnesses out of court for an undisclosed sum of money, using his wealth to buy silence.

The long list of women who describe being sexually assaulted includes: Jewel Allison, Barbara Bowman, Sarita Butterfield, Andrea Constand, Lachele Covington, Janice Dickinson, Joyce Emmons, Beth Ferrier, Carla Ferrigno, Chloe Goins, Tamara Green, Helen Hayes, Renita Chancey Hill, Michelle Hurd, Judy Huth, Beverly Johnson, Linda Kirkpatrick, Angela Leslie, Katherine McKee, Louisa Moritz, Lynn Neal, Kristina Ruehli, Therese Serignese, Joan Tarshis, Linda Joy Traitz and Victoria Valentino. Several additional women have only provided partial names: Chelan, Kacey, Lisa and Jena T.

The dates of the alleged assaults range from as early as 1965 to as recently as 2004. Some of the women, like Lachele Covington and Andrea Constand, reported the assaults right away. Some, like Beth Ferrier and Tamara Green, reported their assaults in the intervening years.

Many waited until the story blew open over the past two months, reading about the other accusations and realizing they were not alone. Of those, some say they tried to speak out about the assaults when they happened but were not taken seriously.

Others have spoken out about how painful and difficult it has been to face the "15 minutes of shame" that goes along with coming forward, taking a direct shot at the whispered accusation that they are just trying to fleece him for money.

The man has even reportedly hired a team of private investigators to try and dig up dirt on his accusers and assault their credibility.

Power Protects Power

But the power of power goes deeper. This man is scheduled to perform a live stand-up show tonight at Hamilton Place, and a lot of people are upset about it.

One local woman, Anne Bokma, has been organizing a demonstartion to take place both outside the concert hall - and, more important, inside the hall among the seated audience.

This has generated some controversy. Global Spectrum, the company that manages events at Hamilton Place, has "beefed up its security and requested additional police support" in anticipation of the demonstration, according to a column by Andrew Dreschel in today's Spectator.

The column quotes Ike Richman, spokesperson for Global Spectrum:

"We do hope that anybody who is coming to the show will be respectful of other patrons. If you're coming to the show with the intent of disrupting the performance or interfering with anybody's enjoyment of the show, you'll be asked to leave."

If protesters refuse or cause other trouble, Richman say police will be called in and penalties such as a lifetime ban from Hamilton Place will be considered.

This is the power of power: a powerful man faces down literally dozens of accusations of sexual assualt with impunity, while the people who dare to protest him face the prospect of legal punishment.

The financial resources of a large corporation and the legal apparatus of the state are employed in conjunction to protect the abuser against those who are calling for him to be held accountable.

Standing Up to Power

RTH contacted Anne Bokma today to discuss the event. Bokma says, "I hope we can walk out and say Hamilton stood up to Bill Cosby."

Other Cosby shows have seen outdoor protests, but Bokma is adamant that the demonstration needs to happen inside the hall as well. "We want to protest inside the venue because it is important to us that Cosby can see and hear us. We want to get his attention and disrupt his show. We need to get access to the theatre and that meant buying tickets."

Bokma says about half of the tickets were donated by supporters. (Disclosure: my family made a donation.) The group demonstrating inside will be large and eclectic.

At last night's show in London, Cosby actually made a joke about his accusers. "You have to be careful about drinking around me," he said to a female audience member who was going to the lobby to get a drink.

"He's acting as if the show can go on as before," says, Bokma, "as if nothing happened, but something has happened and we don't think the show should go on without some kind of disruption."

One person stood up at the London show and called, "You're a rapist." Security removed him and a contingent of several police officers escorted him from the show. They even removed a London Free Press reporter who recorded the heckler with his cellphone.

Use Your Judgment

According to Bokma, buying tickets to the show - and paying money to Cosby and the company that booked him - is "akin to buying shares in a company to get access to the annual shareholder meeting. The outdoor demonstrations are really important but he's not going to see that. We need to get inside."

Some people have argued that it's not fair to other attendees to disrupt a show they paid to see. Bokma responds, "This is a small disruption compared to the way he's disrupted these women's lives."

Cosby's apologists insist that he hasn't been convicted of any of the accusations in a criminal court of law. But as Bokma points out, "Sexual assault, rape cases are very difficult to prosecute. The justice system does not do well with rape cases. 90 percent of women don't ever report their rape, and even those who do rarely lead to a conviction.

"The code of justice does not always mete out the correct punishment. In this case it's he-said against 30 she-saids. Use common sense, use your judgment. We make judgments about people and situations every day."

To people defending Cosby, Bokma says, "I'm not saying throw him in jail, I'm saying think long and hard before you applaud this man."

Bokma notes that Cosby has been "projecting a huge image of himself on the screen with Nelson Mandela. I find it appalling that he's associating himself with a true hero, a man who spent 20 years in jail while Cosby walks free with privilege, despite 30 allegations against him. That is sacriligious in my view."

Join the Demonstration

Bokma calls on Hamiltonians to support the initiative by joining the outdoor demonstration, which runs from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM outside Hamilton Place, at the corner of Main Street West and Summers Lane.

Bokma says, "We want to stand for those 30 women that we belive he has victimized. We want to represent them in the theatre. We want to send a message to victims of sexual violence that a man like Cosby can't just stand with impunity."

This is an opportunity to help Hamilton be the city that stood up to Bill Cosby.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

30 Comments

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By J (registered) | Posted January 09, 2015 at 13:44:59

I also call BS on the venue's fear of cancelling due to legal action. This has been such a timid and shallow excuse. Let the promoter try to claim the cancellation fees. They are abetting what history will recall as a monstrosity. Th Courts would not look too favourably on the promoter which is defending a monster.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted January 09, 2015 at 14:17:05 in reply to Comment 107723

I don't understand in what sense the courts would not look favourably on the promoter; there is a contract here and if not honoured, if damages were incurred then damages would need to be paid. As a matter strictly of law (as opposed to a matter of what we call equity) whether someone has clean hands or not is irrelevant.

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By creepy (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2015 at 14:06:15

woah, watch the video in the london free press article where cosby shushes the audience like theyre naughty 5-year-olds. "stop, stop, stop, all of you be quiet, no no, stop, stop it, stop it, stop it, that's right, shh, shh, no clapping, nothing, that's all right, okay, we just have patience, okay." what a narcissistic creep.

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By lastscreenname (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2015 at 15:50:25 in reply to Comment 107724

I thought the same thing when I watched it. He's so arrogant and just commands/controls the audience like a bunch of sheep. Even more proof of how he was able to handle 15 - 20 year olds (only one at a time) and gain access to drug them.

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By Jojo (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2015 at 14:46:13

For what it's worth, I think he's guilty. However, he hasn't been convicted yet. I get the outdoor demonstration. But for this woman to take it upon herself to organize inside the venue is selfish. It's not going to help the victims. Bill will get his day in court. Take it up with those who booked his show, not the people who paid for tickets to see a show, not a protest.

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By on the other hand (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2015 at 15:02:13 in reply to Comment 107730

"This is a small disruption compared to the way he's disrupted these women's lives."

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By Sleepily-Annoyed (registered) | Posted January 09, 2015 at 15:16:03

So does this mean we can expect demonstrations when the next Polanski film comes out? Or how about Woody Allen, or Sean Penn. What about the people who support people like Polanski; Johnny Depp, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Ewan McGregor, Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly, Adrien Brody, Walter Matthau etc. These folks were not only willing to work with Polanski after he fled the US but also help to increase Polanski's net worth making it even hard for his victim to seek justice.

Isn't there a television music show with Cee-Lo Green as a judge. The same Cee-lo Green who raped a woman and then said it wasn't rape because she was unconscious. I haven't heard a single call for a boycott of that network. What about Mike Tyson Mysteries on Netflix. Are we not not supporting rape by giving money to Netflix? If buying tickets is "akin to buying shares in a company to get access to the annual shareholder meeting." Then certainly the same could be said about people buying products that sponsor television shows like The Voice.

Why do these celebrities get a pass while someone who attends Cosby's show because they enjoy his comedy or have fond memories of Cosby as an entertainer are considered supporters of rape? The logic seems very inconsistent to me about who we boycott. I mean Sean Penn is often looked at as a kind ofHuman Rights activist FFS. The same Sean Penn who tied his ex-wife Madonna to chair and beat her for 9 hours. Yet I'm willing to bet there hasn't been a single demonstration at any theatre in Hamilton showing something he's been in.

I'm not saying Cosby is innocent, he almost certainly is guilty. I just wonder why so many others in his shoes get that free pass. Also, I think disrupting someone else's evening because you have different opinion is a very ego-driven way to protest. Like crashing a wedding because the priest is accused on molestation, bride and groom be damned.

I'm open to corrections.

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By demonstrator (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2015 at 15:53:36 in reply to Comment 107732

So if we don't protest everyone all the time we don't get to protest anyone? How about you have to start somewhere? How about popular culture has only just turned a corner about rape by men in positions of power? How about Cosby is different because there are so many women coming forward? How about people were finally ready to realize it's wrong that he's allowed to get a free pass?

And your analogy leaves a lot to be desired. A person going to a show to be entertained is nothing like the same as a bride or groom at their own wedding.

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By Sleepily-Annoyed (registered) | Posted January 12, 2015 at 11:03:23 in reply to Comment 107736

"So if we don't protest everyone all the time we don't get to protest anyone?" I never asked anyone to protest all the time. I just said it's inconsistent, which it

"How about popular culture has only just turned a corner about rape by men in positions of power?" Which is exactly why I started my comment with "can we expect to see" I based my argument on the premise of future protest with this culture shift.

"How about Cosby is different because there are so many women coming forward?" So rape and abuse is only important if there's a lot of people involved? That's such an awful argument and I'm pretty sure you know it is. Several other cases have evidence in addition to the allegation, but because it's just one girl it's not worth demonstrating against?

"How about people were finally ready to realize it's wrong that he's allowed to get a free pass?" copy/paste "Which is exactly why I started my comment with "can we expect to see" I based my argument on the premise of future protest with this culture shift."

"And your analogy leaves a lot to be desired. A person going to a show to be entertained is nothing like the same as a bride or groom at their own wedding." They're both situations where the primary people being disrupted have nothing to do with target of the protest. Also, some people actually care a lot about going to see entertainers, to dismiss the act of being entertained as trivial is quite insulting. To both entertainers in general as well the fans who support them. Just because you don't care about being entertained does not devalue it's purpose in society.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted January 09, 2015 at 16:59:06 in reply to Comment 107736

"So if we don't protest everyone all the time we don't get to protest anyone?"

Well it would be good if the protesters had the conviction to continue past a month, week, night of protest for something which is seemingly important to them. They should continue to launch and maintain protests on others, not just Cosby.

BTW, Polanski is different from Cosby because he's wanted by the law. Why not protest him and his supporters. Next year's TIFF will likely have someone who's worked with Polanski in the last 40 years, so start there.

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By demonstrator (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2015 at 17:20:58 in reply to Comment 107738

I'm really sorry our voluntary activism doesn't already measure up to your standards, Steve. Tell you what, if Roman Polanski comes to southern Ontario I bet there will be no shortage of people willing to protest. Will you be there too or do you prefer to criticize people's activism from the comfort of your living room?

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By Steve (registered) | Posted January 09, 2015 at 18:35:34 in reply to Comment 107740

demonstrator, here's a local challenge for you to take up and oddly enough (coincidentally?) in the news today as well, Sergeant Kevin Dhinsa.

A Hamilton police officer whom you still pay a nice salary with your tax dollars after allegation from twelve women. Twelve women (is that enough for you?) who won't make the national or international news, but to me just as (if not more) deserving of attention.

Hamilton Police Headquarters is at 155 King William St, you can protest anytime.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted January 10, 2015 at 22:17:49 in reply to Comment 107746

I still don't understand what your point is supposed to be. You've chose precisely the wrong people as the target of your ire here.

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By relevance (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2015 at 17:52:25 in reply to Comment 107740

Is this the bailiwick of RTH?

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By Steve (registered) | Posted January 09, 2015 at 18:35:54 in reply to Comment 107742

I think it's fluid.

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By Chris Angel (registered) | Posted January 09, 2015 at 15:49:31

I see he has already been found guilty in the court of public opinion. No need to mess with things like laws and actual trials. Ryan your standards are usually very high but this article is awful. Did you actually do any research outside of sources like TMZ? The oldest allegation dates to 2000(Lachele Covington)at which time a number of other complainants came forward. The next occured in 2005(Andrea Constand)to another deluge of complainants. If Cosby is guilty there will be no shortage of interested legal representation available to the complainants on a win percentage basis. The stakes are that high, literally 10's or 100's of millions of dollars. Might this be an incentive for false allegations? I think if it were a dozen men claiming Cosby as their biological father that possibility would be considered a reasonable topic for debate. It should be in this case too. It is beyond my comprehension the certainty which people like Anne Bokma have that Cosby is guilty without due process. I have no respect at all for lynch mobs no matter how well intentioned or politically correct

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By When (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2015 at 17:54:51 in reply to Comment 107734

It's interesting. When lawyers represent "victims" of casting couch assault no one says a thing. When they represent injured tabboganists they are vultures and in conflict of interest.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted January 09, 2015 at 19:16:16 in reply to Comment 107743

I think you'll find in the toboggan issue it was a lawyer who was injured, sued and won.

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By J (registered) | Posted January 09, 2015 at 21:21:03 in reply to Comment 107748

Jimmy Savile wasn't ever found guilty either! It's a court of public opinion!

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted January 09, 2015 at 22:16:31

using his wealth to buy silence.

The complainants did not have to accept the terms, but they did. They could've fought it through the system, but they too chose to be silent, instead choosing to get a sum of money. It's not a one-way street, someone has to offer and the other accept.

It's also sad that RTH feels this is newsworthy. At this point I'd rather see another LRT article than this trash. The man hasn't been charged or found guilty of anything at this time. I hope that if no charges are ever brought that Ms. Bokma issues a formal apology. If Mr. Cosby is charged and convicted, that will be the end of it.

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By AP (registered) | Posted January 10, 2015 at 11:01:07 in reply to Comment 107752

I was glad to see this article. Important for this conversation to be happening in as many places as possible. Raisethehammer.org is about city-building; addressing social shortcomings is as relevant as infrastructure design. This is about much more than Cosby - it's about shifting a conversation to support survivors of gender-based violence and discourage / prevent future acts.

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By MediaWatch (anonymous) | Posted January 10, 2015 at 10:58:22

Where there is smoke there is assuredly fire. And there has been lots of smoke around Bill Cosby for quite some time now.
Here's the dilemma though. While we believe in giving victims voice and credibility, we also believe in due process and the rights of an accused to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Bill Cosby has not been found guilty of anything and the women who have made allegations have not been able to even secure even a charge against him, unlike our Canadian media-star, Jian Ghomeshi.

So, what to do?

If we say nothing, we seem to not give credence to the accusers. If we protest too much, we give short shrift to our due process standards.

It is not a comfortable situation to be in regardless of what one does.

For sure though, the patrons of Mr. Cosby's concerts are blameless and shouldn't be treated as complicit to a crime. After all, Cosby hasn't been....ah here we go again. It is a vicious cycle.

Maybe the best thing Cosby can do at 77 years old and not in need of any money, we are given to understand, is simply to stay home and stop putting communities on the horns of this dilemma!

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By RobF (registered) | Posted January 10, 2015 at 11:43:56 in reply to Comment 107762

MediaWatch, You've hit the dilemma on the nose ... There's a pretty good chance that Cosby's guilty, but we've been wrong before. There are no easy answers. There's a reason why rape victims often don't come forward: the scrutiny they are subjected to often re-victimizes them.

And for those who want Ms. Bokma to issue an apology if Cosby's never charged (for many of the alleged rapes I believe he can't be charged because the statute of limitations has past on them), should his defenders, including those attending his shows claiming to "believe" Cosby, offer formal apologies if he is charged and convicted?

Really I can't find fault with Ms. Bokma's protest ... they paid for the tickets, made their statement and were escorted out by security peacefully. Above it is likened to people who buy shares in companies in order to attend their AGM to make a statement. Perhaps, they could have just attended wearing the shirts. The message could have been conveyed silently just as effectively, perhaps. Then again, it was Ms. Bokma's decision. She organized the protest as is her right. We still have freedom of assembly and freedom of speech right?

Comment edited by RobF on 2015-01-10 11:58:44

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By Ms Me (anonymous) | Posted January 10, 2015 at 15:14:35

I prefer these issues were dealt with through the courts, rather then people looking for their 15 minutes. However it is what it is! I'm waiting to see if Anne and her jury are planning to protest CBC for their involvement or lack of involvement with the Jian Ghomeshi case.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted January 10, 2015 at 16:30:45 in reply to Comment 107766

What's to protest at CBC ... is Jian still on the air? What involvement is CBC supposed to have in the case now? You have seen the CBC 5th estate show on the matter right?

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By Ms Me (anonymous) | Posted January 11, 2015 at 10:47:32 in reply to Comment 107767

Yes RobF I did see the 5th estate, which by the way is a CBC production. Unless your living under a rock CBC is known for their bias productions, views and relationships. Their cover up of the Jian Ghomeshi case should not go unnoticed and I truly hope charges against the known executives are laid.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted January 11, 2015 at 12:34:15 in reply to Comment 107775

If you are implying they are simply a left or liberal version of Fox News or Sun TV in Canada, I don't share your view of the CBC.

I hardly hid that the 5th Estate was CBC production ...

The problem is that i don't see a cover-up ... Jian is out, CBC appears to have terminated him once he revealed what he was up to, and there is an investigation underway. If the police feel that there was potential criminal wrong-doing at the CBC they'll investigate and we can expect further actions to be taken. What is it that people should be protesting?

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted January 10, 2015 at 19:38:28 in reply to Comment 107767

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted January 10, 2015 at 21:56:14 in reply to Comment 107768

Sure I get that. But it takes us far from protesting the actual person alleged to have committed the sexual assault/violence, and into a much grayer area. If it was to be shown that CBC staff and execs knew and helped keep it under wraps or that in some way they aided in his alleged offences ... well that would be different, especially if said staff and execs remain on the job with no repercussions. That's not the picture painted by the 5th Estate piece, which was hardly a puff-piece. They are aspects of the story that are troubling in hindsight, but i think we'll have to see what happens ... some staff have already paid a price for what happened and an investigation is underway. I find it hard to see what someone would be protesting ... i.e. what action they'd be protesting, or what demand they'd be making.

Comment edited by RobF on 2015-01-10 22:01:46

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 09, 2015 at 14:22:00

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