About 30 protesters attending comedian Bill Cosby's Hamilton show Friday night stood up during the performance minutes after it started, blowing whistles and shouting "We believe the women," before being escorted out by security.
Other people inside the venue shouted "We believe the men," and "We love you Bill," as Cosby urged calm.
"Stop, calm down," Cosby said. "They've had their say, we can calmly let them out."
Not long after, more protesters were escorted out — one yelling "Our product is steel, our strength is people," while another called Cosby a "piece of shit."
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The show's promoters added additional security to head off disruptions of the show. Cosby has not been charged and through his lawyer has denied all of the allegations against him. The beleaguered comedian, 77, was performing in Hamilton as protests mount surrounding sexual assault accusations against him.
Anne Bokma, a Hamilton writer, organized the inside protest, which happened about 15 minutes into the show.
A core group of 30 people smuggled in T-shirts and posters that said "We believe the women," she said. Another 20 people left the show in support.
The protesters, which included a Mohawk College professor and two United Church ministers, left of their own volition, she said. "Security and police were almost super polite," she said. "They basically let us walk right on by. There was no aggression."
Before the show, more than 100 protesters gathered outside the venue for a separate protest in frigid temperatures. Protest organizer Lenore Lukasik-Foss, the director of Hamilton's Sexual Assault Centre, told CBC News she was buoyed by the support being shown.
“We want people to believe survivors, and we want there to be more dialogue about violence against women," she said. "We want the level of dialogue to rise above questioning always and blaming survivors.”
She asked the crowd repeatedly not to heckle people who were on their way inside the show. "I understand how complicated this is and I know in our country we use the justice system as a yardstick," she said. "We are not judging people, we would ask them to question things."
Ade Tosin was one of the people attending the show, despite the accusations swirling around Cosby. “It is concerning that there is quite a few of those who have come out, but I believe a man has to be found guilty in court before people can label him as a rapist," he said.
“I watched him growing up, and I still have that emotional, sentimental attachment to him, which is why I brought my girlfriend to see the show tonight.”
A few men's rights protesters also staged a counter-protest at the venue, shouting, "Lynch mob justice isn't justice" and denouncing feminism.
"If we don't have justice, if we don't have due process, then we are no longer a free and democratic society," said protester Attila Vinczer.
As he opened the show, Cosby actually commended the protesters for standing out in the cold for their beliefs.
It's a testament, he said, of the "human spirit of what we can do and what we believe in. It's just fantastic."
Cosby said he'll come back in two years, and hopes that when it happens, "all the people outside will also be inside."
Bokma said that's unlikely.
"Nobody here will be inside and I doubt Cosby will come back to Hamilton after this."
Heckling at previous show
At a previous show in London on Thursday night, a heckler yelled out that the comedian was a rapist.
The man was removed from the theatre by a police officer while another member of the audience yelled to Cosby, "We love you." The comedian then continued with his routine.
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, "You have to be careful about drinking around me," which drew loud applause. Cosby has been accused by several women of drugging their drinks.
Cosby had expected hecklers at his Ontario shows, and issued a statement advising fans not to interact with protesters and to "stay calm."
Cosby issued a statement after the London show that read, "One outburst but over 2,600 loyal, patient and courageous fans enjoyed the most wonderful medicine that exists for humankind. Laughter. I thank you, the theatre staff [Budweiser Gardens], the event organizers and the ... community for your continued honour and support. I'm far from finished."
Cosby's show covered topics such as his childhood, church, his Uncle William's love of alcohol, the difference between a beating and a whooping and his recent attempts to do gymnastics.
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