Over 50 people, led by members of the Yale Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Alliance, gathered outside Toad’s Place on Monday to protest the performance of reggae artist Capleton whose songs, they alleged, advocate the persecution and murder of homosexuals.
The concert, originally billed to begin at 8 p.m., did not start until an hour and 45 minutes later, with fewer patrons inside the club at 9:45 p.m. than protesters at the door.
Toad’s Place manager Ed Dingus said all Toad’s shows begin later than advertised.
The protestors, who initially marched in circles before ultimately lining up along the sidewalk, joined in chants including “Hey, hey, ho, ho, homophobia’s got to go,” and “Two, four, six, eight, not too late to stop the hate.” Some banged makeshift percussion instruments in time with the chants or carried signs with messages such as “Don’t perpetuate hate” and “Protect our campus from homophobia.” Others carried signs with examples of Capleton’s allegedly offensive lyrics, including “Burn out a queer, blood out a queer.”
Claudette Kemp, Capleton’s manager, said on Monday afternoon that she initially reacted with disbelief when she heard the Toad’s show would be protested.
“There’s no violent connotation in Capleton,” she said. “He’s not a violent man. He wants to be preserving life, preserving humanity.”
Latchezar Benatov GRD ’09, as well as other protestors, said he chose to protest the show because he opposes lyrics that “advocate killing people of any kind.”
“Even if I was not part of the gay community, everyone should protest this. It’s outrageous,” Benatov said.
Some protestors said that while they were conscious of constitutional liberties, the artist’s lyrics were beyond what could be considered protected speech.
“While there is freedom of the press, obviously, and freedom of speech, this is hate mongering,” said Joan Verniero, a high school English teacher from Monroe, Conn.
Kemp said the protests have misinterpreted her client’s lyrics.
“Rasta is always known to use one word in a different context,” Kemp said. “When we say city, we pronounce it ‘shitty.’ But we don’t use those words that people think we’re using. We don’t speak like that. It just a dialect made up of slang.”
But popular interpretations of Capleton’s songs are still a concern, said Loren Krywancyzk ’06, student coordinator of the action.
“It’s about perception,” he said. “Regardless of the message he thinks he’s expressing, the way it’s interpreted is just as important.”
A protracted e-mail campaign asked Toad’s to cancel the show.
Toad’s Office Administrator Shawn Lambert said Monday afternoon that while the protestors’ communications had weighed into the dance bar’s decision, he had received a statement from Capleton professing the peaceful and tolerant nature of the artist’s music.
Toad’s Place administrators also disassociated themselves from the individual ideologies of their guests.
“We understand the feelings of the protestors,” Dingus said. “Toad’s doesn’t take the same views as the artists who perform here. We just provide entertainment.”
Though some of the protestors’ chants and signs explicitly targeted Toad’s Place, Krywanczyk said the artist, not the club, was the real target of the protests.
“Toad’s brings in a lot of great queer-friendly musicians,” he said.
The LGBT Alliance will continue its campaign when Beenie Man, another artist accused of promoting attacks on homosexuals, performs at Toad’s on Oct. 12, Krywanczyk said.
Beenie Man and Capleton performances in other cities have been protested.