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Ragga music blamed for attacks on homosexuals: Young blacks accused of jibes and violence against gay men

HOMOSEXUAL men were meeting in London last night to discuss ways to tackle an alleged upsurge in physical assaults and verbal abuse prompted by the homophobic lyrics common in ragga music - an aggressive hybrid of reggae and rap that originated in Jamaican dance halls.

Young blacks have been taunting homosexual men with death threats by quoting the lines from songs - particularly by Buju Banton and Shabba Ranks - and shooting them with make-believe pistols.

A telephone hotline set up by the weekly newspaper, Capital Gay, in an attempt to monitor the scale of the problem has had more than 50 calls in three weeks, some reporting attacks by blacks screaming homophobic abuse.

Representatives at last night's meeting in Brixton, focus of one of the London's largest gay communities, are hoping to work out a strategy aimed at curbing the problem.

Activists believe that one path might be to persuade local authorities like Labour-run Lambeth to use its housing policy to evict council tenants who have been intimidating their gay neighbours. An extension of a pilot programme in which the Metropolitan Police monitor attacks on gays was another proposal.

Chief Inspector Roger Kember, with responsibility for gay liaison at Scotland Yard, said that initial figures from the programme did not bear out a rise in attacks.

But Simon Edge, one of the meeting's organisers, said: 'The problem is getting very, very bad. The amount of verbal and physical abuse has been on the increase since the rise of ragga. It's almost exclusively by young blacks. The rise in tension is tangible on the streets.'

He said he and many gays found themselves the target of abuse on a daily basis, continually taunted with a line from a song by Buju Banton: 'Boom bye-bye inna battyboy head' - shoot the homosexual in the head.

Peter Tatchell, of the gay and lesbian rights group, Outrage, said the rise in attacks could be traced directly to the increase in interest in ragga as gays and blacks had previously lived amicably in areas like Brixton and Notting Hill.

'Since ragga, though, it has become impossible for me to sit out in my local park without being abused . . . I had two incidents where bricks and bottles where thrown at me and I narrowly escaped being seriously injured. They were shouting 'kill the battyman'.'