Buju Banton mobbed by fans

ENTERTAINER Buju Banton yesterday had his $50,000-bail extended and was asked to return to court on October 19 to answer a charge of assault when he appeared in the Half-Way-Tree Resident Magistrate's Court.The entertainer, accused of participating in the beating of six men said to be homosexuals, was mobbed by supporters outside the court.

A number of them carrying placards, the entertainer's supporters gathered across the street from the courthouse, proclaiming anti-homosexual statements and protesting Banton's innocence. "This is not a money thing, its about right and wrong. The earth belongs to man and woman not man and man, so they should free Buju," a Rastafarian man told the Observer. "They should leave Buju. What are they[homosexuals] trying to teach the children. We dont want homosexuals around here," said another member of the crowd. Their voices reached fever pitch when Banton arrived and made his way into the court building.

He was again mobbed when he left the courtroom, causing a short stoppage of traffic along Maxfield Avenue, as fans cheered and played Banton's local hit Bum Bye Bye, the song that had upset the gay community, which claimed it incited violence against gays.
Banton, whose real name is Mark Myrie, is being represented by attorney Linton Gordon, who told the court that the conditions of his client's bail - reporting to the Constant Spring Police Station between 6:00 am and 8:00 pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays - was affecting his ability to work.

The presiding magistrate, in extending bail, then relaxed the conditions and asked that he report to the police on Mondays only. Banton, clad in a matching khaki shirt and pants, and black shoes, with his locks loosely tied together, had a calm demeanor as he sat in the courtroom, his eyes roving the room. Allegations before the court are that Banton was among a group of men who barged into a house on Carlisle Avenue in Kingston on June 24 last year and beat six men whom they accused of being homosexuals. The entertainer has already pleaded not guilty to the charge.

International gay rights groups, which have criticised the entertainer for his anti-gay lyrics, have been paying close attention to the case. Banton was among eight Jamaican dancehall artistes who had come under pressure from gay rights lobby groups in Europe and the United States for their gay-bashing lyrics. Several of these artistes have had a number of their stage shows cancelled because of pressure from the gay rights groups.