For three days, the sound outside of the Montgomery County Courthouse, where Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial is unfolding, has been the steady rumble of TV news trucks, punctuated by bursts of reporters shouting questions at the elderly entertainer, his attorneys, the celebrities du jour who accompany him, and anyone else who looks remotely important.
Thursday, Helen Reddy belted out her female-empowerment anthem “I Am Woman.”
Artist and activist Bird Milliken played the 1971 song on repeat from a megaphone, as she walked laps around the courthouse, occasionally singing along. She carried a bouquet of balloons, a poster printed over with Reddy’s lyrics, and a big black posterboard cutout of a hand with its middle finger extended.
— Dana DiFilippo (@DanaDiFilippo) June 8, 2017
She looked for open windows to linger outside, and ignored both the smirks of passers-by and the intermittent scolding of courthouse staff urging her to lower the volume.
“If I was trying to be quiet, I wouldn’t be here,” Milliken said over the music. “If Bill could just smell my stink, that would be so … that would make me feel good, and probably a lot of other women too.”
She blew bubbles, saying each one represented a Cosby victim. "I hope one [bubble] lands on him," she said.
Milliken, a social worker who also participates in animal-rights protests, said she was moved to mount her musical protest after seeing the steady stream of celebrities who have escorted Cosby into the courthouse to stand trial for sexual assault. Those celebrities have included actress Keshia Knight Pulliam, who played his daughter Rudy on "The Cosby Show;" Sheila Frazier, who co-starred in a 1978 movie with him; and comedians Joe Torry and Lewis Dix Jr.
“I felt like the survivors needed a voice,” said Milliken, of North Philly, who also advocates for the anti-domestic violence group No More and creates etched-glass art for her business Lipstick On A Turd. “It sickened me to see Cosby supporters, and the lack of support for these women. So I wanted to make sure that they had a voice and to show support, even if I was alone. Every little bit matters, always. And women need to have a stronger, more united voice together. So this is my effort towards that.”
Milliken said she was unsurprised by defense attorneys’ efforts to discredit accuser Andrea Constand.
“It’s so disturbing and so typical and disgusting, and it’s like grasping at straws when you’ve got nothing,” Milliken said.
But she applauded Constand and Cosby’s other accusers, who couldn’t file criminal charges because statutes of limitations expired — but who have come to the trial in solidarity.
“I am so proud to be a woman, and I’m so proud of all these women who came forward, not only to share their own stories, but to support one another,” Milliken said. “This, to me, is so, so important, and it baffles me that more people aren’t standing up and saying: ‘You know what? This guy is not just a serial rapist but the epitome of abusing power!’ God, people need to rise up in every way.”
She added: “Complacency? You might as well die, and I’m not ready to die.”