Venue Cancels Baltimore Ex-Cop’s Blackface Fundraiser

Bobby Berger dons blackface makeup in an undated TV news story.

A Baltimore ex-cop may not get the chance to parade around in blackface to raise money for the officers currently indicted in the death of Freddie Gray after all.

Michael’s Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie, Maryland, the venue that was reported to host former police officer Bobby Berger’s planned fundraiser, said in a statement late Wednesday that the event would not be held there.

“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,” the statement read. “No contract was signed with Mr. Berger. Michael’s does not condone blackface performances of any kind.”

Berger had told The Baltimore Sun that he already sold 600 tickets to the benefit for the six officers indicted in Gray’s death. Gray died from what was said to be a spinal cord injury he suffered while being transported in a police van. The incident sparked weeks of protests around Baltimore that turned violent at times.

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The newspaper could not reach Berger for comment about his plans for the fundraiser now that the venue canceled on him.

Berger’s performances as vaudeville icon Al Jolson, in which he wears blackface, were a point of controversy in the Baltimore Police Department in the 1980s. Berger was fired at one point for refusing an order to stop performing in blackface and he engaged in what would become a years-long legal battle with the department over that order.

The police union distanced itself Wednesday from Berger’s fundraiser. An attorney for one of the indicted police officers also told the Sun that his client “will not accept a single solitary dime from this sort of action.”

“This is the type of racist behavior that we do not need and do not want,” Ivan Bates, the attorney for Sgt. Alicia White, told the newspaper.

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