Buju Banton Charged with Gay-Bashing Attack

Trial is test case on whether justice exists for gay Jamaicans.


London – 26 September 2005

Jamaican reggae star Buju Banton has been charged with queer-bashing assault.

Jamaican police allege that Banton was one of a group of men who forced their way into a house on Carlisle Avenue in Kingston on June 24 last year and beat six men who they accused of being gay, according to the Jamaica Observer newspaper (23 September).

Mr Banton was allowed out on bail of $J50,000 after he pleaded not guilty to the charges of assault at the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate’s Court.

As a condition of his bail, the court ordered the rastafarian entertainer to report to the Constant Spring Police Station every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.

Buju Banton’s trial will take place on September 30.

“This trial is a test case on whether gay people can get justice in Jamaica,” said Brett Lock of the UK-based gay human rights group OutRage!, which has spearheaded an international solidarity campaign with anti-homophobia groups in Jamaica.

“Some Jamaicans fear that Mr Banton’s celebrity and the strongly homophobic attitudes that exist in Jamaica will deny justice to the victims of what was a horrific homophobic assault.

“We pay tribute to the police officers who eventually pressed ahead with these charges, despite huge pressure not to do so. It our hope that the court will show similar resolve.

“OutRage! salutes the courageous struggle of gay and human rights groups in Jamaica to challenge violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. We support their campaigns.

“A warrant for Mr Banton’s arrest was issued last June, just days after the alleged assault.

“Jamaican police and prosecutors were heavily criticised by Jamaican human rights groups for failing to execute the warrant. There were allegations that some senior officers were protecting the singer from the due process of law.

“Buju Banton, whose real name is Mark Myrie, became notorious in the early 1990s with his violently homophobic hit single, Boom Bye Bye, which incited his audience to shoot “batty boys” (queers) in the head, pour acid over them and set them on fire (see lyrics below).

“He continues to perform Boom Bye Bye and re-released it on two compilation albums (Best of. and Strictly the Best 9). The albums are still on sale and Mr Banton continues to earn royalties from Boom Bye Bye’s murderous incitements,” said Mr Lock.

Buju Banton is one of eight reggae dancehall artistes who have faced protests from gay and human rights groups in Jamaica, Europe and the United States for their gay-bashing lyrics.

These protests have been coordinated by the Stop Murder Music campaign group, led by the UK gay rights organisations, OutRage! and the Black Gay Mens Advisory Group, and by the Jamaican gay rights movement, J-Flag.

Dozens of concerts have been cancelled as a result of the campaign, which has cost the artists, promoters and venues losses in excess of £UK5 million.

Further information from OutRage!:

Lyrics of Buju Banton’s Boom Bye Bye

Jamaican patois, with standard English translation and explanation underneath

Boom bye bye

Boom [as in gun sound] goodbye, goodbye

[as in we won’t be seeing you again, you’re dead]

Inna batty bwoy head

In a queer’s head

Rude bwoy no promote no nasty man

Rude boys don’t promote no queer men

Dem haffi dead

They have to die

Send fi di matic an

Send for the automatic [gun] and

Di Uzi instead

The Uzi instead

Shoot dem no come if we shot dem

Shoot them, don’t come if we shoot them

[as in don’t come to help them]

Guy come near we

If a man comes near me

Then his skin must peel

Then his skin must peel

[as in pour acid over him]

Burn him up bad like an old tyre wheel

Burn him up badly, like you would burn an old tyre wheel