Rep. Adriano Espaillat is not satisfied with the U.S. government’s response to American rapper A$AP Rocky’s detention in a Swedish jail, and plans to “mobilize” ahead of the rapper’s Friday hearing.
Espaillat, who represents the Harlem neighborhood where the rapper was born, says he’s talked with officials at the State Department who have promised to monitor the situation.
“Is that sufficient to me?” the New York Democrat asks, rhetorically. “It means very little. They’re just watching to see what happens.”
The congressman met with the rapper’s mom, Renee Black, who also held a press conference with Rev. Al Sharpton over the weekend.
A$AP Rocky, whose legal name is Rakim Mayers, was arrested along with his associates in Stockholm following an altercation with two men who had accosted them in the street. The Harlem rapper, who was in the country to perform at the Smash music festival, is being held on “suspicion of assault” while the preliminary investigation continues, according to the Swedish Prosecution Authority.
According to a video posted on the rapper’s Instagram account, two men can be seen approaching Rocky and his crew in a hostile manner. One of the men throws a pair of headphones at a member of Rocky’s security detail. From the video, it appears the rapper is trying to diffuse the situation, asking the two other men repeatedly to stop following and go in another direction.
On July 2, Rocky and two associates turned themselves in to Swedish authorities, who, according to Espaillat, have not given them a fair shake.
“He was clearly trying to do his very best to avoid any type of violence,” the congressman says. “And these two other guys just kept coming up on him. So in my opinion, he’s the victim here. He should be released.”
Espaillat says he’s reached out to other members of Congress who are planning to make a public statement in the coming days.
Espaillat says the conditions under which Mayers is being held are “over the top” and “speaks bad for Sweden, a country that likes to present itself as a nice democracy.”
Rocky is being held in a jail cell 23 hours a day. His manager’s hotel room was raided and his phone was confiscated, Espaillat says.
“The conditions of the facility are horrific and include 24/7 solitary confinement, restriction of amenities for the most basic of human functions, lack of access to life-sustaining food as well as unsanitary conditions,” John Ehmann, Rocky’s manager, wrote on Instagram. Ehmann added that a member of the U.S. Embassy had his request to visit Rocky initially rejected, a violation of Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
Since then, Rocky has “been allowed to visit with a U.S. Embassy Consult and attorney, but only in the presence of Swedish officials,” Ehmann wrote. “It is troubling and worrisome that the laws are not being applied equally.”
On social media, the hashtag #JusticeForRocky has been trending, while celebrities and artists pledged they would no longer be traveling to Sweden. “No more Sweden for me, ever,” tweeted rapper Tyler, the Creator.
Swedish authorities have until July 19 before they must decide “whether to file a prosecution or ask the court for a longer detention period in order to finalize the investigation,” according to a statement from the Swedish Prosecution Authority.