Is U.S. law enforcement really cracking down on Buju Banton’s right to free speech as they arrest him on possession and intent to distribute charges after finding him with five kilos of coke? That’s one theory be floated by his associates.
Following the reggae artist’s arrest at his home in Tamarac, FL (north of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale) — after allegedly speaking to a confidential informant about plans to score a few kilos, and then taking part in a (videotaped) meeting to buy them — his supporters are coming out to defend him. Like fellow reggae star Red Rat, who collaborated with Buju over 10 years ago. “Everybody’s surprised, everybody’s saying it’s got to be a set-up,” says Red Rat, who lives in both Miami and Jamaica. “We don’t know Buju as that type of person. We know Buju as the revolutionary that he is, the one who sings about love and uplifting yourself as a people in the dancehall reggae world. Yeah he did ‘Boom Bye Bye,’ but that was a young Buju.”
Meanwhile, radio shows are being inundated with calls from fans saying the arrest must be a “conspiracy,” reports the Miami Herald.
“They are convinced it’s directly connected to the concert he had recently,” said Winston Barnes, a Miramar city commissioner and host of a popular Jamaican talk show on WAVS (1170-AM). “What they are saying is that he got off that time and they are fixing him now.”
Barnes tried without success to reason with callers, most of whom also viewed the arrest as an attack on reggae music. “It is one big mess.”
In Jamaica, people clamored for details of the arrest, decrying it on radio and on street corners.
“A lot of people are wondering if it has any links with the fight against him,” well-known Jamaican dub poet Mutabaruka said from Kingston. “We are trying to get more information.”
Right. Because America’s law enforcement actively targets high-profile people who make threats against the gays. If that were the case, there’d be a helluva lot more pastors and politicos locked up.
Interestingly, as Buju faces some 20-30 years if convicted, the one thing that could help get him a lighter sentence is his status as a reggae star.
“Conservatively speaking, we’re looking in the 20- to 30-year range,” said David P. Rowe, a criminal defense lawyer in Broward, who has been contacted about representing Banton. “I think a plea bargain, if he has information, might be a good course of action.
“Hopefully, the federal government will take into account that he is a reggae icon, and a cultural leader in Jamaica. Those are subjective factors but ones that should be taken into account. He really has been a source of inspiration for so many Jamaican youths.”