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Bill Cosby's Canadian shows go ahead as protests gear up

/ Source: Reuters

TORONTO (Reuters) - Bill Cosby, the subject of more than a dozen sex abuse allegations over the past three months, will go ahead with three Canadian shows this week as protesters geared up to heckle the comedian and some fans tried to offload their tickets.

Cosby, best-known as Dr. Cliff Huxtable on "The Cosby Show," has had two television projects shelved and several standup performances canceled since the allegations started last year.

But performances in three cities outside Toronto are going ahead despite the controversy.

Demonstrations are planned outside each Canadian venue by supporters of sexual abuse survivors. Some Canadians were trying to sell their Cosby tickets on social media while others donated them to sexual assault support groups.

Cosby, 77, has never been charged over the allegations, which date as far back as the 1960s. He settled a 2005 civil suit that alleged sexual misconduct.

"We knew him as the warm Dr. Huxtable but the allegations paint a different picture and we can't really support that," said Wendy Carmichael, 62, who lost C$300 re-selling her four tickets to Wednesday's show.

Event promoter Innovation Arts & Entertainment said the venues are contractually obliged to hold the shows, but acknowledged it was an "unpopular" decision and urged protesters not to direct their vitriol at the venues or staff.

The head of a center for abused woman objected to Cosby's appearances.

"The entire issue of men's violence against women is not a joke, and for an alleged serial rapist to be performing on stage in London, Ontario, is entirely inconsistent with the views this community holds towards women," said Megan Walker, executive director of the London, Ontario-based Abused Women's Centre.

Walker expects several hundred protesters outside Thursday's London show. An alternative concert is scheduled to run at the same time as Cosby's Wednesday show to raise money for sexual assault support services in the community.

"He has to see that Canadians have a spine and aren't going to put up with this," said David, a 57-year-old insurance salesman who sought tickets to attend Wednesday's show in order to heckle the comedian in person.

"I have a daughter and I don't want that in my community," added David, who declined to give his last name.

Cosby, who has largely remained silent, urged fans to remain peaceful in the face of any protests or hecklers.

"If a disruption occurs, please remain calm until the matter is resolved and do not confront the person making the disruption," Cosby said in a statement to media.

(Reporting by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Leslie Adler)