R. Kelly's Atlanta show goes on amid protests; Memphis show canceled

R. Kelly's Atlanta show goes on amid protests; Memphis show canceled

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Akili-Casundria Ramsess/Special to the AJC
 Arista Saunders, far right, and daughter Sanaz Saunders, 9, with other protesters outside Wolf Creek Amphitheater in College Park for the R. Kelly concert on Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. 

Michael White bought his ticket to see R. Kelly at the Wolf Creek Amphitheater about two months ago.

That was before BuzzFeed published reports claiming the Grammy-winning R&B star had abused young women living with him in houses in Chicago and Johns Creek.

But those recent allegations didn't deter White, 38, of Atlanta, from standing in line for his seventh R. Kelly concert. White, towing a cooler at his side, was one of thousands of people who stood in a line that wrapped around the venue outside of College Park to see Kelly on Friday.

“Everybody has skeletons in their closet,” White said. “I mean, I just love his music. I’m not affected by stuff (BuzzFeed) puts out.”

R. Kelly and his representatives and attorneys have repeatedly denied the allegations.

Protesters did not deter crowds lined up to attend the R. Kelly concert at Wolf Creek Amphitheater. on Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. His concert has been overshadowed by new allegations that he kept young women in a “sex cult.” (Akili-Casundria Ramsess/Special to the AJC)

As concertgoers drove down Merk Road to find a parking spot, they were greeted by a small group of protesters who chanted "Mute R. Kelly" and waived signs reading, “sex trafficking begins here.”

Among the protesters was John Eaves. The former Fulton County chairman and now candidate for Atlanta mayor, along with th county commission, urged Live Nation weeks ago to cancel Kelly's concert.

“(R. Kelly) represents the worst of our society,” Eaves said speaking in a microphone to protesters and concertgoers. “We’re standing up and saying, ‘enough is enough.’ … I’m here as a private citizen today. I’m a father, and I don’t want my children to be victim to sexual exploitation.”

Live Nation never replied to the letter the Fulton commissioners sent on Aug. 3 asking to cancel the show. The concert promoting company is in a contractual agreement with Fulton County to manage Wolf Creek.

Former Fulton County Chairman, and now Atlanta mayoral candidate, John Eaves speaks with media outside R. Kelly's Atlanta concert at the Wolf Creek Amphitheater on Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. (Mitchell Northam/AJC)

Later, while speaking to media, Eaves said Live Nation was “driven by profit” and did not “honor the request” made by the commissioners.

Also with the protesters were Tim and Jonjelyn Savage, the parents of the 22-year-old Atlanta woman featured in the first BuzzFeed story. The Savages have claimed their daughter is being "held against her will," and that they hadn't seen her since December. Joycelyn Savage has since said in interviews with TMZ that she's fine and in a "happy place."

While the protest crowd was small, Kenyette Barnes, the co-founder of the #MuteRKelly campaign, and others considered Friday to be a victory as Kelly’s concert slated for Sunday in Memphis, Tennessee was canceled. It is the fifth show of his current tour to be canceled.

The Fed Ex Forum posted to its website that Kelly’s concert was cancelled due to “unforeseen circumstances.”

Sarah Rose, 29, of Atlanta, a senior organizer with the website Care2 worked with Barnes to start the #MuteRKelly petition, which had more than 36,000 signatures as of Friday. Rose was at Wolf Creek too, chanting, waving signs and celebrating the petition’s victory in Memphis.

“We’re enthusiastic that there has been so much support nationally,” she said.

Rose said Care2 members are encouraged to protest Kelly’s concert near Birmingham, Alabama on Saturday.

Along with more protesters, there will also be more people like White in Alabama and at Kelly’s future concerts.

“I like his old stuff and his new stuff,” said White, who added that his favorite R. Kelly song was the 1993 hit, “I’m Ready For You.”

“He’s been a really good and consistent artist. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time,” White said. “And he gives really great concerts.”

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Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves held a press conference in Atlanta to call for further investigation into claims that R. Kelly has held women against their will in a Johns Creek home, citing new evidence.

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