A white former Baltimore police officer said he plans to perform an Al Jolson routine in black make-up to raise money for the six Baltimore officers who have been indicted in the death of Freddie Gray.
Bobby Berger, whose performances as Jolson created tension with the department in the 1980s, said this week that 610 tickets have been sold in eight days at $45 each for the 1 November fundraiser in Glen Burnie.
But the venue where Mr Berger intended to hold the event, Michael’s Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie, posted a notice on its website that the fundraiser will not be hosted there.
“No contract was signed with Mr Berger,” the notice said. “Michael’s does not condone blackface performances of any kind.”
Mr Berger said in an interview he doesn’t believe there is anything racist about his routine.
“It’s coincidence,” Mr Berger said about the fact that the entertainer he impersonates wore black make-up. “There’s no racial overtones. There’s nothing racial to the show.”
Michael Davey, an attorney for the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police, said officers do not support the fundraiser. Mr Gray, who was black, died of injuries received in police custody. Mr Davey said no money would be accepted from the fundraiser.
“They’ve been put in a pretty bad position without their knowledge,” Mr Davey said of the police officers.
Tessa Hill-Aston, president of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP, says the idea is “very distasteful”.
Mr Berger, 67, was fired from the police force in the 1980s for performing the act in his spare time.