The Cosby Showdown

Anne Bokma was not amused when comedian Bill Cosby came to town amid fresh allegations of sexual assault. So she and 30 others planned their own stand-up moment.

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Published in United Church Observer in May 2015

Bill Cosby is within close enough range that I could sail a paper airplane at his head and be reasonably certain I’d hit my target. It’s early January and I’m sitting in the centre of the second row at Hamilton Place, where Cosby is set to appear for his third and final Canadian performance, part of a North American tour continuing until this June.

Fourteen theatres have already cancelled his show due to the storm of ongoing publicity surrounding the allegations of 30 women who claim he drugged and sexually assaulted them. While there have been a few small demonstrations outside his shows, no group has ventured inside the protected bubble of the concert halls where he continues to be adored.

Until now.

Sitting beside me is Christine Miller Paradela, a diaconal minister at Rock Chapel and Lynden United churches in Hamilton. She is chatting amiably with the young man next to her, and I draw strength from her calm presence.

She isn’t the only minister in the audience. Somewhere behind us is Rev. Ian Sloan, minister of New Vision United in Hamilton. The three of us are part of a group of 30 women, men and teenagers - one to represent each of the women we believe Cosby has victimized.

We are scattered throughout the orchestra level, awaiting the 15-minute mark in the show when we will stand in unison to disrupt Cosby and demonstrate our support for his accusers. I’m in disguise with a long, dark curly wig covering my blond hair. After doing a lot of publicity about the protest, including TV appearances, I’m recognizable and don’t want to risk being turned away at the door.

Under old coats - which we will leave in our seats - we are wearing white T-shirts emblazoned with the words “We believe the women.” Tucked under our clothes are posters with the same words. Rape whistles dangle around our necks and will soon pierce the air, sounding an alarm that we believe a dangerous man is on stage.

Cosby is aware of our protest and has taken precautions. More than two dozen uniformed security and police officers roam the aisles surrounding the rows of half-empty seats.

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