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Advocates rally at Sony Music HQ, calling on label to drop R. Kelly

Advocates delivered a petition to the label's Manhattan headquarters Wednesday, calling on Sony and RCA to drop the artist, who has been accused of sexual abuse.

Demonstrators chant during an R. Kelly protest outside

Demonstrators chant during an R. Kelly protest outside Sony headquarters in Manhattan on Wednesday. Photo Credit: AP / Richard Drew

A group of advocates implored Sony Music and RCA Records to drop R. Kelly, following the release of a Lifetime documentary series that accused the artist of sexual abuse. 

A couple dozen protesters held signs like “record label complicit in assault,” “Black girls matter” and “we believe you” across the street from Sony Music’s headquarters on Madison Avenue and East 25th Street Wednesday. They chanted “Sony music has no shame, they only care about profits and fame” and “RCA, take a stand. We won’t stop till Kelly’s banned.”

Protesters were delivering a petition with more than 217,000 signatures calling on the label to drop the singer. They were also planning to present Sony Music and RCA Records with a “Record Label of Shame.”

“Surviving R. Kelly,” a six-part series that aired earlier this month, featured interviews with several women making on-camera allegations of sexual, mental and physical abuse by Kelly spanning decades. 

In Illinois, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx has publicly asked for victims to speak up.

Joanne Smith, the founder for Brooklyn-based Girls for Gender Equity, said Wednesday that everyone who witnessed Kelly's alleged abuse and turned a blind eye is complicit. 

“We see you, we hear you and we believe you,” she said to victims. “Today RCA, your number has called.”

Jade Magnus, the director of organizing for racial justice group Color of Change, agreed that RCA Records deserves blame for Kelly's alleged behavior.

“He was supported by enablers ... he was aided by RCA,” Magnus said. “We can no longer support R. Kelly ... enough is enough.”

A number of celebrities denounced the performer following the release of the Lifetime series, including Lady Gaga, who released a statement apologizing for her 2013 track “Do What U Want,” which featured the artist. Chance the Rapper and others have since pulled their tracks featuring R. Kelly collaborations from streaming services.

John Legend spoke out about the alleged abuse in the series. “To everyone telling me how courageous I am for appearing in the doc, it didn't feel risky at all,” he tweeted on Jan. 3. “I believe these women...”

Reports of sexual abuse involving R. Kelly surfaced nearly two decades ago after the Chicago Sun-Times received an anonymous video recording allegedly of the artist involved in a sexual act with an apparent minor. Both the singer and the woman who witnesses testified was 14 ath the time of the recording denied that the video was of them. A 2017 BuzzFeed report sparked the #MuteRKelly movement, backed by Time’s Up. The report claimed the artist was keeping young women under his control in a cult-like environment.

Kelly has continuously denied the allegations made against him, claiming his accusers are seeking fame. His camp attempted to launch a Facebook page earlier this month to “expose” the accusers. It was removed by the social media platform. 

Kelly also allegedly retaliated against Faith Rodgers, one of the women who accused him in the series, who filed a lawsuit against him in May.

The artist responded to the lawsuit by posting photos of Rodgers on social media and threatening to reveal information about their relationship, Rodger’s attorney Gloria Allred said.

With Alison Fox

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