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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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