BY VERNON DAVIDSON Executive editor - Publications email@example.com
THE United States Drug Enforcement Administration (USDEA) yesterday confirmed that reggae artiste Buju Banton is now in a Florida lock-up after being charged with intent to distribute cocaine.
Banton, whose real name is Mark Myrie, was held on Thursday, Florida DEA information spokesman David Melenkevitz told the Sunday Observer.
"Mr Myrie was arrested on a case based in Tampa. He is charged with intent to distribute cocaine, five kilos or more," Melenkevitz said. "Right now he's in custody in South Florida and he'll be transferred to Tampa."
Asked when the transfer would take place, Melenkevitz said he couldn't give a date, only that it would be "in the near future".
Melenkevitz also said he did not know the circumstances that led to the deejay's arrest. However, he confirmed that the arrest was not made at an airport.
Banton has been in the United States since September promoting his new album Rasta Got Soul.
His arrest comes almost two months after he rejected demands from gay activists in California that he promote respect for homosexuals via his music and at a town hall meeting.
The gay lobbyists also demanded that he donate the proceeds from his anti-gay anthem Boom Bye Bye to local gay group Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG).
But Banton told local talk show host Mutabaruka on his Cutting Edge show on Irie FM in October that he could never endorse the demands and that he would never sell himself out as that would contradict his religion and culture.
He also said that the night after he met with the gay lobbyists his tour concert was pepper-sprayed.
Since then, the Rasta Got Soul Tour, which opened on September 12 in Philadelphia and was scheduled to end November 1 in Orlando, Florida, has been fraught with problems, as gay rights advocates have forced a number of cancellations.
For almost two decades Banton has been a target of gay rights groups angered by his music, particularly Boom Bye Bye, which they point to as promoting the murder of homosexuals.
Last week, one gay rights group protested the Grammy nomination of Banton's Rasta Got Soul announced two weeks ago.
The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Centre described the nomination as "appalling" and voiced the hope that the recording academy would "not bestow the prestigious honour of a Grammy on someone whose music promotes murder".
"We're shocked that Buju Banton, a singer with a long record of performing a song that glorifies the murder of gay people, would be honoured with a Grammy nomination, regardless of the artistic merit of any of his work," the centre said on its website.
Yesterday, Melenkevitz said that Banton would be prosecuted by the US Attorney for the Middle District of Florida.