“Where’s your ‘Dr. Luke Is a Piece of Shit’ sign?” a gangly blond man asked one of the 30 or so gathered across from the New York State Supreme Court in downtown Manhattan Friday morning (Feb. 19) for a protest in support of pop star Kesha. “Does it say ‘S-h-i-t’ or ‘S-h-*-t’?”
The last-minute preparations for #FreeKesha were nearly finished, just five minutes before the event’s scheduled start at 9 a.m. ET, when Kesha fans, or Animals, and women’s rights activists would lend their support to the beleaguered pop star, who was scheduled to continue her long-running legal battle with producer Dr. Luke, whom she has accused of sexual abuse, at 10:30 a.m.
Freezing weather aside, spirits were high and glitter was copious as Kesha’s supporters rushed to prepare for their moment in the spotlight. “How about this: ‘Dr. Luke is really wack, Kesha needs her freedom back!’” one protester offered as the group sought an appropriate chant. Everyone had signs, ranging from the brash and succinct (“F— Dr. Luke!” and “Sony Kills Music”) to the more accurate, but less rhythmic (“Don’t Force Kesha to Work With Her Alleged Abuser” may not roll off the tongue, but it got the point across).
A high-school-age girl sporting a neon green wig, her mother watching at a distance, shivered along to the (obviously) all-Kesha playlist blaring from a portable speaker. Throughout, a TMZ cameraman stood by, bored.
“Not only am I a Kesha fan, but as a human rights activist and a women’s rights activist, this is definitely a case that could help reform how we protect women in the music industry,” said 19-year-old college student Michelle Martin, who had painted Kesha’s signature multicolored triangles below her eyes, explaining why she had taken a six-hour bus ride from Maine to attend the protest. Martin held a sign that compared Kesha’s sexual assault allegations against Dr. Luke to those made against Bill Cosby and Kim Fowley.
After the protest moved to the courthouse stairs, which were promptly decorated with all colors of glitter in preparation for Kesha’s arrival, its numbers began to swell, with virtual supporters included as well; the event’s organizer, an 18-year-old college student named Mike Eisele from Newtown, Conn., broadcast the event via the @KeshaToday Periscope account. “She inspired me to be myself and love myself. She’s done the same thing for so many other people,” said Eisele. “To see her human rights being taken away from her, it’s heartbreaking.”
The mood inside the courtroom was somber. Kesha arrived a half-hour before the trial was expected to begin, wearing a cream-colored pantsuit and taking a seat along the back wall next to her mother and team. She remained stony-faced through much of the proceedings, before hunching over in tears after her preliminary injunction — which sought to release her from a contract with Sony and Dr. Luke’s Kemosabe Records — was denied. Her tears weren’t the only ones in the courtroom, though: 18-year-old Lindsey Scarpa, who sat through the entire hour-and-a-half-long argument, was visibly distraught during much of the back-and-forth. “She doesn’t deserve that,” Scarpa said after the arguments had finished. “She’s helped so many people through such hard times.”
Kesha hugged Scarpa, as well as the other fans who eventually trickled in to see the proceedings, telling them, “It will be OK,” as she exited the courtroom.
“I can’t even believe I just met her,” said Scarpa, still crying. “But her mom said it’ll be OK, and they’ll figure it out.”
Kesha’s Animals remain optimistic for what’s to come. “I don’t feel that I’ve heard her real voice yet,” Martin said. “I want to hear her music after she’s won this case.”