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The premiere of the Surviving R. Kelly documentary was cancelled because of threats

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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But the film’s producer promised that the voices of the survivors evacuated from the cinema “won’t be silenced”.

For many of the women in the audience at a screening of the docuseries Surviving R. Kelly last night, the moment was deeply personal.

These women, some accompanied by their parents, and others whose voices appeared in the Lifetime documentary series, were some of the hip hop artist’s alleged victims. (Despite years of allegations against him, specifically to do with underage sex, R. Kelly continues to deny every account.) Some had travelled across the country to be in the room that evening.

They gathered at the NeuHouse cinema in New York to watch the documentary before it airs to the public next year. Produced by Lifetime, Surviving R. Kelly bills itself as the first documentary to bring together a number of his victims, as well as those in his “inner circle”, to discuss further allegations of abuse against the artist. 

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But these women did not get to see the documentary last night. Barely 30 minutes into the screening, the movie was turned off and the theatre evacuated because of a threat of gun violence from an unknown caller. Although the threat was considered “noncredible” by the NYPD, guests were evacuated as per Lifetime’s safety protocols, reports CNN

According to dream hampton, executive producer of the documentary, the threat was a textbook move of intimidation from a known abuser. “Tonight re-traumatized the survivors who were brave enough to sit with me and share their stories and who were at the screening. They’ve received SO MUCH hate for coming forward,” she tweeted. “Trust, there’s no payday for them…” 

In an email to CNN, hampton added: “Calling in a noncredible threat to the NYPD to interrupt our screening is an act of desperation from people who don’t want these truths shared with the world. The survivors who bravely sat with me for this docuseries know all too well what R. Kelly is capable of, every one of them has stories of being abused and controlled by him.”

#MeToo founder Tarana Burke, who was in the audience that evening, tweeted that “the worst of it isn’t the threat though because it didn’t appear to be credible but the survivors who had to endure his harassment.” 

But hampton and the women featured in the documentary refuse to be silenced. Writing on Twitter, hampton made a powerful statement on behalf of all of Kelly’s victims.

“We will not be shut down,” she wrote. “He will deal.”

Surviving R. Kelly, a six part docuseries, airs on Lifetime from 3-5 January.  

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