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Blackface routine planned at fundraiser for cops accused of killing black man

The event is being organised by a former Baltimore cop fired for his Al Jolson perfomances.

berger An undated image of Bobby Berger in blackface, while still a Baltimore police officer Tom D'Antoni Tom D'Antoni

A RESTAURANT IN Baltimore, Maryland has said it will not host a fundraiser for six police officers charged with killing 25-year-old black man Freddie Gray, after controversy over a planned blackface performance.

Bobby Berger, himself a former Baltimore cop, vowed to perform his infamous Al Jolson routine, in full blackface, at an event he has been organising for 1 November.

“I’ve been through what they’re going through and I know they need the help,” Berger, who was fired in the 1980s for persisting with his performances, told the Baltimore Sun.

…A guy comes up to your desk and says, ‘We’ve got to let you go.’ How do you survive?

Berger, 67, boasted yesterday that he had already sold 610 tickets at $45 each, and denied the blackface routine was racist.

There’s no racial overtones to this show. There’s nothing racial to the show.

Berger performed the routine while still a Baltimore police officer, and was fired for it. On appeal, he was reinstated, but had his badge and gun confiscated, and was given no work until his retirement, the Baltimore Sun reports.

berger2 Bobby Berger, during his former day-job as a Baltimore police officer. Tom D'Antoni Tom D'Antoni

And undated news segment shows Berger performing the routine, and proudly discussing it, while still employed by the Baltimore police department.

Funds raised from the event were intended to support the families of six Baltimore police officers charged with a variety of offences, including second-degree murder, in connection with the death of Freddie Gray in April.

The 25-year-old black man died a week after he sustained a severed spinal cord in the back of a police van.

The incident sparked a wave of riots and peaceful protests against racially-tinged police brutality in Baltimore and throughout the US.

After Berger’s announcement yesterday, the fundraiser provoked outrage among activists, including Tessa Hill-Aston, president of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP, who called it “very distasteful.”

This is showing no sensitivity to the family of Freddie Gray.

Even the local police union, which represents the six accused officers, has said it would not support the event, nor accept any money raised from it.

Suspect Dies Baltimore Associated Press Associated Press

And last night, the proposed venue announced on its website that it had cancelled the fundraiser.

Bobby Berger will not host a fundraiser at Michael’s Eighth Avenue for the six Baltimore police officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray.
No contract was signed with Mr Berger. Michael’s does not condone blackface performances of any kind.

Earlier, Berger had said:

I want to get these people [the officers] some money. I know they need it, and that’s the long and short of it.

It is unclear whether the event will be hosted elsewhere, or if money already paid for tickets will be given back to would-be attendees.

Contains reporting by the Associated Press.

Read: Outrage and protests after death of black man arrested by Baltimore police>

Read: Six Baltimore police officers formally charged over Freddie Gray death>

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