“It beats me how you treat — the way you treat women!” a woman shouted at Bill Cosby 40 minutes into his performance in Atlanta on Saturday.
It was the final date of his current “Far From Finished” tour. A day earlier, two new accusers had made allegations to the press that the comedian had sexually assaulted them.
One of them, Lili Bernard, who appeared as a guest star on the “Cosby Show,” told USA Today that she has also turned to New Jersey police with her allegations that Cosby drugged and raped her.
CNN has been unable to confirm details of Bernard’s allegation, or details given by Kaya Thompson, another self-described Cosby victim who spoke at the protest Saturday. A voice mail left for Cosby’s attorney, Marty Singer, was not immediately returned Sunday afternoon.
Bernard stood in front of the venue, Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, with other protesters. They held signs and shouted “Shame!” at the people heading into the show.
More than 20 women have come forward with claims that Cosby sexually assaulted them. Some accusations against Cosby date back to the 1960s. His accusers include a former Playboy Bunny and former model Janice Dickinson.
Cosby, 77, has not been charged with any crimes and has vehemently denied any wrongdoing. Most of the allegations have passed statutes of limitations, preventing criminal legal action.
Woman booed down
Cosby was telling a joke about his mother threatening to beat the “bejesus” out of him as a child, when the woman began heckling him.
The crowd besieged the woman with boos and shouts of “Aw come on!”, “Go home!” and “Go away!”
Cosby shushed the crowd and briefly let the woman speak before telling her, “This is our show, and it’ll be over soon.”
She was the second disruptor of the night. Twenty minutes earlier, a man stood up and began shouting seemingly incoherent one-liners.
Both times, Cosby waved off security and let the interrupters speak, even getting a laugh when he asked the man, “Do you have 40 more minutes of this?”
The interruptions were not unexpected.
Just before the show started, an announcement informed patrons not to confront anyone who might try to derail the performance. A group had sent out a press release announcing they planned to interrupt it “regularly.”
Cosby was met with cheers from the crowd of 1,600 people who had come to see his Atlanta performance. The venue seats 2,700 and there were rows of empty seats.
Outside the show, Bernard handed out copies of statements she made during a press conference the day before in which she spoke about coming forward after remaining silent out of fear for 23 years.
“If I were to remain silent to the public,” Bernard said, “I would be enabling Bill Cosby’s criminal lifestyle. I would be enabling his duping of his adoring fans. I would be enabling the re-victimization of the courageous women who have stepped forward.”
Attorney Gloria Allred, who represents Bernard along with numerous other alleged Cosby victims, joined the protesters.
“It’s very important that we’re here,” Allred said, “because this may be his last concert. This may be his last stand on his ‘Far From Finished’ 2015 concert tour and we’re not finished with Bill Cosby.”
To Brandy Betts, the fact that Cosby is still working presents a moral dilemma.
“It’s not acceptable that a very powerful, popular, privileged, protected man has been able to perform, largely unstopped, and gain wealth and power while these women put together the pieces of their shattered lives,” she said.
Accuser Kaya Thompson
Another Cosby accuser, Kaya Thompson, was also among the protesters.
She met Cosby in 1988, when she was a 17-year-old model, she said. He had been mentoring Thompson for about a year, when an unwanted sexual encounter occurred at his New York City home, she said.
“Even at 17, it was then very clear what was expected of me,” Thompson said. “I made a lot of excuses to get out of the house as quickly as I could, and I cried the whole way home.”
Thompson, whose account has previously been widely reported, was joined by her parents.
“We’re here primarily because Bill Cosby is a serial predator,” her mother Judy Thompson said. “However, our tolerance of rape culture in this country is a bigger story.”
While Thompson was speaking to CNN, people who had attended the show shouted obscenities at the protesters, telling them to go home.
Fans who attended received a “special message” via email from Cosby’s organizers.
“Dear Fans: We won tonight! No interruptions, nothing but laughter and an amazing standing ovation before and after the show,” it read. “I thank you, the event organizers, Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre and the Atlanta Community for your loyalty, trust and commitment to stand beside me. Hey, Hey, Hey — I’m Far From Finished.”