A private screening of Lifetime’s upcoming R. Kelly docu-series, Surviving R. Kelly, was canceled and evacuated in New York after a gun threat was called into the venue Tuesday night, Rolling Stone has learned.
“At tonight’s premiere of Lifetime’s documentary series Surviving R. Kelly at NeueHouse Madison Square, several anonymous threats were called in,” a rep for the network tells Rolling Stone.” As a precaution, the network elected to evacuate the building. The safety and security of our panel, guests and staff is of paramount importance to Lifetime.”
A source close to the project who attended the event said NeueHouse received two calls from the same male caller. The unidentified caller told a venue employee that there was someone in the theater with a gun and that shots would be fired if they continued showing the documentary. A spokesperson for NeueHouse called the threats “non-credible.”
Activist and #MeToo founder Tarana Bruke, who was set to appear on a panel after the screening, wrote about the threat and evacuation on Twitter. “Tonight was a private screening of the @lifetimetv documentary #survivingRkelly where his survivors, parents of survivors, and folks featured in the doc were gathered and a BOMB THREAT was called in and the event shut down,” she said.
So…Y’ALL ARE NOT GOING TO BELIEVE THIS!
Tonight was a private screening of the @lifetimetv documentary #survivingRkelly where his survivors, parents of survivors, and folks featured in the doc were gathered and a BOMB THREAT was called in and the event shut down. #muteRkelly
— Tarana (@TaranaBurke) December 5, 2018
Burke added, “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.” Burke was one of several panelists set to speak after the screening, alongside R. Kelly accusers Kitti Jones, Jerhonda Pace, Lisa Van Allen and Asante McGee. Cultural critic Jamilah Lemieux and Surviving R. Kelly producer Brie Miranda Bryant were also set to speak.
“This just speaks to how much power there is in numbers that someone felt the need to threaten this event,” Jones tells Rolling Stone. “But we won’t be intimidated or silenced and we hope this brings even more attention to the legitimacy of our stories and how important this documentary is to the movement.”
“NeueHouse has always existed to celebrate creatives, entrepreneurs and activists with important and meaningful stories to share,” a NeueHouse spokesperson tells Rolling Stone. “The safety of our storytellers and of our members is always our first priority. Tonight was no different. Despite non-credible threats called in during tonight’s screening, we followed appropriate safety protocols in collaboration with the NYPD and elected to postpone the event. We stand by the creative women bringing these heroic stories to light.”
A representative for Kelly declined to comment.
Surviving R. Kelly, which premieres January 3rd, is a six-part docu-series that chronicles the stories of several women who have accused R. Kelly of sexual misconduct. One of the women, Jones, spoke about her tumultuous relationship with Kelly in an interview with Rolling Stone last year. Jones accused the singer of physical abuse, sexual coercion, emotional manipulation and overseeing her life with a slew of draconian rules regarding how she dressed, what she ate and when she went to the bathroom. (Kelly has denied all the accusations against him.)
Jones also spoke of the criticism and backlash she and other survivors have faced after speaking out against R. Kelly. “It pisses me off that people that really did suffer and go through the things that they did and wanted to kill themselves are still ashamed, in hiding, embarrassed and just afraid overall to speak out,” she said. “The backlash from it will make you feel like [you wish you’d] never talked about it. And all this has been replaying in my head and I’m like, ‘Fuck that. I’m not letting this be me.'”