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Brannon loses hotel gig over racist slur

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An entertainer and activist at the centre of a racism row was yesterday dropped as a performer by the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club in the wake of online posts where he called the people in charge of immigration “cockroaches”.

Tony Brannon said he had shut down his Facebook account and would in future avoid “commenting on anything — on causes, on the lay of the land; I am done”.

The musician, who has a history of outspoken online comments on subjects from tourism to same-sex marriage, admitted: “I said something racist.”

Mr Brannon said: “For people that know me and that I work with, they know in their heart of hearts I am not racist, but I have said some racist things.

“I do not see myself as racist, but I am fully prepared to open my eyes and try to figure out how best to come to terms with this.”

Mr Brannon said he had signed up to truth and reconciliation talks organised by Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda.

He admitted: “Not everyone accepts my apology. I have to be prepared for that.”

Mr Brannon had performed at the Princess with a band, the Big Chill, which he said might break up as a result of the hotel's decision.

He said, without a livelihood, he might have to leave Bermuda or “look at other options”.

However, he added: “That's my problem to face. I just hope that in time I can sort this out.”

Mr Brannon said he had “flown off the cuff and used a very poor choice of words” in a Facebook post on Saturday night where he highlighted the lack of customers in a restaurant and blamed the Government's immigration policies.

The “cockroaches” analogy returned in another online remark that night where he discussed the departure of a long-serving police officer from Bermuda.

Commissioner of Police Stephen Corbishley condemned the post.

He said the Bermuda Police Service had been linked to the comments “as one of the posts by Mr Brannon referred to a departing BPS officer”.

Mr Corbishley added the post had “made me angry, as we have nothing to do with this matter” and that the service's efforts to build trust should not be “damaged by the words of a social commentator, who feels he can associate, deliberately or not, the BPS to his views”.

The Bermuda Entertainment Union also denounced the remarks.

The union said: “Cognisant of the island's historical racist immigration policies and legislation, which have left generational damage to the people of Bermuda, the BEU supports all efforts to create a more just country.”

Online discussions on Mr Brannon's posts quoted statements in the House of Assembly four years ago by Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier and then the Shadow Minister of Home Affairs.

Mr Roban criticised the One Bermuda Alliance administration in a debate on immigration reforms and said: “I have to almost compare the OBA to a cockroach, which carry certain diseases on their appendages.”

The comment was interrupted by Randy Horton, then the Speaker of the House, who ordered Mr Roban to “withdraw that nonsense”. Lynne Winfield, of Curb. said the group “deplored” Mr Brannon's comments and that he had contacted her on social media for guidance on racism.

She said Curb recognised that, unlike other people in similar circumstances, Mr Brannon had admitted that he had been racist.

However, Ms Winfield added: “Mr Brannon has a history of this type of racist and insensitive remarks and we find it offensive and inciteful.

“What is even more shocking is the number of people who supported his comments, which is indicative of the level of work Curb stilll has to do.”

She said Mr Brannon could face “a high level of mistrust”, but could still mend fences.

Ms Winfield added: “Curb will work with Mr Brannon to help him on this journey towards understanding how race and its antecedents have negatively impacted the black community and encourage others who want a better Bermuda for all to join with him.”

Tony Brannon (File photograph)
Stephen Corbishley, the Commissioner of Police (File photograph)

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Published March 05, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated March 05, 2020 at 9:03 am)

Brannon loses hotel gig over racist slur

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