Support from fans and celebrities is growing for ASAP Rocky, the rapper who’s been behind bars in Sweden for more than a week while officials investigate a June 30 street fight that was caught on video.
Rocky, real name Rakim Mayers, was arrested along with his colleagues after voluntarily going to police headquarters in Stockholm for questioning on July 3. He had been part of the July 2 line-up at the two-day Smash festival of hip-hop in that city.
While Rocky hasn’t posted on Instagram since July 2, when he flipped the bird and wrote only “Stockholm” in the caption, other celebrities have been heating up social media with their concern.
Luminaries including Diddy, Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes, Jada Pinkett Smith, Nick Cannon, Meek Mill, Cara Delevigne, Post Malone, Miguel and Nia Long have posted in support of the #JusticeForRocky petition.
On the flip side, some people on black Twitter have been dragging the rapper anew over comments he made in a 2015 Time Out interview where he appeared to dismiss Ferguson, Mo., and the Black Lives Matter movement, saying he wasn’t Al Sharpton and “did not sign up to be no political activist.”
The new petition reached 250,000 signatures in less than 12 hours, making it the 10th-fastest in history to hit that benchmark, hosting website Change.org said Thursday. With more than 530,000 signatures at publication time, it’s aiming for a million.
“Upon being detained, Rocky was denied his request to counsel, which is in violation of Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to which Sweden is a signatory,” reads the #JusticeForRocky petition, which calls for the rapper’s release from custody. (A US Embassy official was eventually allowed access but only under police supervision.)
Fuelling the petition have been concerns among US fans after an alarming July 4 report from TMZ questioned the food, cleanliness and other conditions at Kronoberg detention facility, where Rocky is being held as he awaits trial.
However, speaking generally, jail manager Fredrik Wallin told the BBC’s Radio 1 Newsbeat that conditions at Kronoberg were good, especially since a renovation in 2017. “We can deny that image of the Kronoberg jail that is described in the TMZ story,” he told Newsbeat.
Rocky’s attorney, Henrik Olsson Lilja, told a Swedish publication Tuesday that the jail was normal; only the arrest was inhumane.
“Reports of the conditions in ASAP’s jail cell and violation of his consular visitation rights are concerning,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said in a statement Thursday, adding his voice to the debate. “We at [the civil-rights group National Action Network] are appealing directly to the Swedish authorities for complete transparency and ASAP’s swift return home.”
Under Swedish law, a prosecutor has up to three days after a person is arrested to file a charge, but a spokeswoman at the Swedish Prosecution Authority said a decision likely would come the day after the arrest. Instead, a judge decided on July 4 that authorities could hold Rocky for up to two weeks while they investigated the brawl.
“Several investigation measures have already been conducted and the analysis of material continues,” the prosecution authority said Friday in a statement. “There is also a preliminary investigation in the case concerning the aggrieved party who is suspected of molestation and assault.”
The prosecutor must decide by July 19 whether to file charges or ask the court for a longer detention period in order to finalise the investigation, the authority said.
If convicted of gross assault, Rocky faces six years behind bars. He’s already had to cancel a number of European tour dates.
The street fight could be seen in several videos, two of which were posted by Rocky himself. The first one to go public, via TMZ, showed the rapper and his entourage hammering on two men in the street in daylight. The 30-year-old rapper, wearing shorts and a hooded sweatshirt, can be seen grabbing one of the men by his shirt or shoulders and hurling him across the street. Then others from the entourage start hitting and kicking the man.
The next two, posted by Rocky, showed what happened before the fight: The two men, who were not native English speakers, had followed the group and seemingly bothered them for blocks. Rocky and his bodyguard were trying to defuse the situation. Team Rocky is now alleging that the rapper and his crew were acting in self-defence.
“Hits security in face with headphones then follow us,” Rocky wrote in a caption on the second video, which runs nearly three minutes and includes a woman’s voice accusing one of the men of slapping her and her girlfriend on the butt. It also includes the sounds of headphones crunching as one of the men clashes with Rocky’s bodyguard.
Representative Adriano Espaillat, D-N Y, represents the district that includes Harlem, where Rocky was born and the ASAP Mob collective operates. He told Complex on Thursday that he’s writing letters on the rapper’s behalf to the State Department, the US Embassy in Sweden and the Swedish ambassador in Washington, D.C.
“[F]or him to be a young person and continue to identify with Harlem, and be a strong presence of the artist community in Harlem, is great,” Espaillat said. “That’s why I’m going to bat for him.”