Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Buju Concert Pepper Sprayed;
SF Weekly Reporter on His Payroll?

Over at the KPIX web site, reporter Joe Vazquez provides details on an unfortunate incident during homo-hating Buju Banton's performance earlier this week:
A release of pepper spray scattered fans at reggae artist Buju Banton's concert in San Francisco early Tuesday morning.

It happened just before 12:30 a.m., about an hour after a group of protesters finished a demonstration outside the club, said Ben Thompson, booker for the Rockit Room club. Police were not called. It is still not clear who sprayed the gas.

"Nobody saw who did it," said Thompson. "For all we know, it was a Buju fan who was there." [...]

At issue: a song Banton wrote in 1988 called, "Boom Bye Bye," the lyrics of which allude to throwing acid on a gay man and using an Uzi to kill gay people. [...]

A protest against his concerts will continue. A website called "Cancel Buju Banton" lists the concerts that have been called off so far. [...]
Excellent factual reporting by Vazquez, especially when compared to a mistake laden story at the SF Weekly blog, written by freelancer Eric K. Arnold. His first version of the peppering was met with deep skepticism by local gays, and a terrific story by Eve Batey about Arnold's questionable reporting on the peppering appeared on
Arnold's September 7 report on Banton's canceled Regency Ballroom performance received a number of comments calling him out on his remarks critical of protests of Banton, and his "Weekend Pick" of Banton's local shows certainly raised eyebrows.

But it's his latest article that's gotten him in really hot water with local activists -- a Weekly blog post that said (it has since been removed, which is unfortunate -- wouldn't a correction be a better move if one fucks up a story? Anyway, here's a screen cap) [...]

The Weekly's removed the story and replaced it with another one (with a different link) that says that, as opposed to a charge of protesters led by Pollo Del Mar, "someone let loose with pepper spray" during the concert. It notes that "An earlier version of this story mistakenly identified Pollo Del Mar and other LGBT activists as being responsible for the incident, based on misinformation from Banton's management." (Emphasis added.) [...]

It's still unclear from Arnold's article that the pepper spray was related to the protest [...] Even an employee of the Rockit Room said, according to Arnold's revised article, that "the protesters left before the pepper spray incident and never entered the venue." [...]

Activist Pollo Del Mar says she's received a call from Weekly writer Eric Arnold, who apologized to her for any "inconvenience." [...]

I condemn the pepper spraying, no matter who did it.

Based on previous stories by Arnold about Buju and his homo-hating ways, see here where the writer lays out what he really thinks:

Our two cents: this sounds like a record we've heard before. Homophobia is unfortunate, as is anti-LGBT violence, and should not be tolerated. Yet it's hard to see how targeting reggae artists has had or will have any influence in changing Jamaica's controversial, colonial-era "anti-buggery" law, which makes homosexual acts a crime in that country. The bottom line? Despite almost two decades of organized protests against allegedly-homophobic reggae songs, the law remains on the books.

Go here to read Arnold's favorable story from the SF Chronicle. BTW, that piece generated a glowing press release on his reporting from Buju's company. Click here to see another Arnold piece basically dismissing gay activists' concerns.

I made my issues known to Tom Walsh, the editor of the SF Weekly, and asked if Arnold was on Buju's payroll, to which he replied, no. Well, Arnold may not be on Buju's official payroll, but he sure is not an unbiased writer when it comes to reporting on these issues.

From London, longtime gay organizer against hate music, Brett Lock of OutRage! had this to say about Arnold:

He was one of the people who started pushing the "gays are racists who don't understand Jamaican culture" line several years ago. As you can see, he has a long history of apologetics for Dancehall's violent homophobia. He always used to approach you as an "impartial" reporter and then totally distort the report in Banton's favour. He's a creep.

Be sure to check out this 2004 piece holding Arnold to account, which ran on a UK music site.

The boycott of Buju's concerts, which I strongly support, continues across America and elsewhere. Go here for more info on the important boycott.


Gina said...

Arnold's current account of the pepper spray still tries to link it to protesters by including the quote from Andrea Shorter to make it sound as if "gay leaders know it was done by someone in their community." The image of drag queen Pollo Del Mar rushing past the big security people and going up to the front of the stage is such is so plainly absurd. (btw, she was not the organizer of the protest, but just one of many people who helped to publicize what was going on). There's an obvious reason why Eric Arnold writes for the SF Weekly, a joke rag few people bother reading and no one takes seriously.

Fact is, as of now, there is zero proof the pepper spray incident had anything to do with the protest. Any protester who would have gone into that club to do it would have had to: a) pay $40 and not participate in the rest of the protest since the door security saw exactly who we were and wouldn't have let that person in; b) realize the extreme likelihood they would be seen while in the act (and I still find it hard to believe someone, anyone didn't see this being done even if it was dark... it's a very small venue); and c) If they were discovered, they would have seen there is only one exit from the club, some big security guys at the door and a whole lot of angry Buju Banton fans in the club. You would have to believe going into that there would be a serious chance of being discovered and that you might be facing an angry crowd (who was already on heightened alert from the protest.

I still have questions as to why the show wasn't stopped even temporarily although some of the backup singers and dancers said they breathed in some of the pepper spray and that 3/4th of the dance floor cleared? Weren't the security people at all concerned whoever did that might try something even more extreme... at the very least try to spray Buju if that was the goal?

Anonymous said...

The Show wasn't stopped because babylon cannot silence RasTafarI.

Landon Bryce said...

SF Weekly has been completely irresponsible. I've been trying to get them to stop Arnold's dishonest reporting for weeks. I called the office and was told to write a letter. I wrote a letter, which was "lost" until I called again after Arnold's libelous pepper spray story appeared. Editor Tom Walsh did not give any sign that SF Weekly takes the situation seriously even during my conversation with him today. I am contacting advertisers to let them know that they are placing ads with a publication that will not apologize for making the Buju Banton concert their pick for the anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death.

Anonymous said...

Arnold's current account of the pepper spray still tries to link it to protesters by including the quote from Andrea Shorter to make it sound as if "gay leaders know it was done by someone in their community."

what are you talking about? it shows that the LGBT community condemns the incident and sees it as a barrier to dialogue and progress on this issue.