Early audience members of the Buju Banton reggae show were greeted with an unexpected opening act Thursday night at the WOW Hall. More than 80 protesters held signs, sang songs and reminded the Hall and passersby of Banton’s violent, anti-gay lyrics.
“We can’t be afraid to reject what we know is hateful,” said Larry Leverone, a Lane Community College math teacher, present at the protest.
Lyrics in Banton’s most controversial song “Boom Bye Bye” condone shooting, beating and burning gays with acid. “Guy come near me. Then his skin must peel. Burn him up bad like an old tire wheel.”
Through their chants, protesters reminded the WOW Hall of Banton’s concerts recently canceled in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Oakland and Bloomington, Indiana, and asked “Why didn’t they do the same?”
Joy Hainsworth, a 77-year-old resident of Alvadore, Ore., said she was disappointed that the WOW Hall had allowed an artist who is “singing violence against people who have given their lives for equality, literally.” She, and her partner Maria, sat quietly outside the hall entrance, holding signs that depicted a slash through the word “hate.”
Refusing to apologize for his lyrics, Banton has stated that his anti-gay beliefs are based on his Rastarfarian religion. He was asked to not perform “Boom Bye Bye” last night.
“I’m not interested in politics, I’m here for the music,” a Eugene man said, refusing to be identified in fear of being labeled a supporter of violence towards gays. “I have no anti-gay feelings.”
The WOW Hall stated that they are not responsible for booking Banton. Mike Thrasher Presents, the outside company that booked the concert, was unavailable for comment when attempted to be reached.
“It would be nice if people wouldn’t hold the WOW Hall accountable,” said Colin Quisenberry, a WOW Hall employee and security guard at the concert, offended by the protesters’ signs and chants of “WOW Hall is not our friend, murder music has to end!”
Most reggae concerts at the Hall don’t have security guards, however, eight were present last night, which added $2,000 in fees for Banton, Quisenberry said.
WOW Hall board member, Janice Dunn, said she supported the protesters speaking their voices, adding that the Hall will probably change their policy of review concerning artists’ lyric content.
Banton, born Mark Anthony Myrie, in 1973 outside of Kingston, Jamaica, burst onto the reggae scene in 1992 with hits like “Bogle” and “Love me Browning.” His most recent album, Too Bad, was released this September.
Banton was acquitted of charges brought against him in July 2004, where he was allegedly one of a dozen armed men who broke into a house in Kingston, Jamaica, beating its occupants while yelling out anti-gay comments, according to the Guardian Unlimited, the British newspaper’s Web sit.
The WOW Hall is opening its doors to the public’s comments and concerns during its next board meeting on Oct. 12 at 5 p.m.
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