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Gay activists to
protest N.Y. reggae fest

Gay activists to
protest N.Y. reggae fest

A reggae festival created to promote peace among cultures is being denounced by gay and lesbian advocacy groups for allowing performers with a history of antigay lyrics.

The Reggae Carifest, to be held Saturday on an island in New York City's East River, promises performances by Buju Banton and Bounty Killer, among several other acts. Gay and lesbian activists are planning to protest the performers outside the show, said Rashad Robinson, a spokesman for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. The purpose is to educate sponsors and concertgoers on the dangers of antigay lyrics, he said.

The performers have a right to free speech, but so do protest groups, he said.

''We as an organization value free speech. It gives us the right to stand up to vulgar antigay lyrics which promote violence,'' he said.

Earlier this week, a hip-hop radio station quietly withdrew its sponsorship of the event. Power 105.1, owned by radio giant Clear Channel Communications Inc., would not specify the reason, but a spokeswoman said the station does not usually play reggae and never plays Banton or Bounty Killer. The station had never planned to broadcast the show live.

Calls to record labels for Banton and Bounty Killer were not immediately returned Friday. Concert promoter Team Legendary did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

The city Parks Department, which operates Randall's Island, said in a statement Friday that all performers signed a code of conduct agreeing to refrain from performing antigay lyrics, at the promoter's request.

The issue of antigay lyrics in reggae and other Jamaican music surfaced years ago when Banton released ''Batty Rider'' and ''Boom Bye Bye,'' which glorify the shooting of gay men. The Beenie Man song ''Han Up Deh'' calls for a lesbian to be hanged, while T.O.K's song ''Chi Chi Man'' suggests the burning of gay men.

GLAAD has identified the Bounty Killer song ''Another Level'' as containing antigay lyrics.

The husky-voiced Banton has been a major star in his native Jamaica since the early 1990s with brash dancehall music and, more recently, a traditional reggae sound. His career has been stunted in the United States because of his attitude toward gays. Banton was tried and acquitted in Jamaica on charges that he participated in the beating of six gay men by a gang in 2004.

A concert last summer at Webster Hall was canceled after a similar uproar over performers Beenie Man and T.O.K. Also last summer, British concerts featuring Banton and Beenie Man were canceled after activists said the artists refused to stop using antigay lyrics.

Reggae Carifest was launched in 1998. Promoters call the show an ''explosion of West Indian exhibitionism.''

''Reggae Carifest is doing our part to break down cultural barriers and to showcase the overwhelming richness of reggae music and culture,'' D'Niscio Brooks of Team Legendary, the concert promoter, said in a news release. (Colleen Long, AP)

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