Court sketch created on 30th July.

Credit: Anna Harvard/AFP/Getty Images

#FreeFlacko: How ASAP Rocky’s Swe­den case got the whole world watching

The rapper has been found guilty of assault after an ordeal which provoked powerful feelings about race, privilege and international politics.

On 2nd August, three days after his release from Swedish author­i­ties, ASAP Rocky attend­ed Sun­day Ser­vice, the inti­mate and invite-only affair host­ed by Kanye and Kim Kar­dashi­an West in Cal­abasas, Cal­i­for­nia. In July, The West family and Trump Admin­is­tra­tion coor­di­nat­ed their celebri­ty and polit­i­cal efforts in attempts for Rocky’s release from Swedish crim­i­nal jus­tice facil­i­ties. #Free­Rocky hash­tag was fea­tured through­out Pres­i­dent Trump’s Twit­ter account, as he dog whis­tled to the Black com­mu­ni­ty in the Unit­ed States about his com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Ste­fan Löfven, Sweden’s prime minister. 

In recent weeks, Trump may have want­ed to rec­ti­fy his rela­tion­ship with young Black and Brown vot­ers after a series of ver­bal attacks against the Fresh­men Four”, a pro­gres­sive coali­tion of fresh­men women of colour in Con­gress, in which Trump tweet­ed that they should go back and help fix the total­ly bro­ken and crime infest­ed places from which they came,” even though three were born in the Unit­ed States. At a speak­ing event in North Car­oli­na on 17th July, Pres­i­dent Trump tar­get­ed Con­gress­women Ilhan Omar, and cre­at­ed an oppor­tu­ni­ty for atten­dees to engage in send her back” chants, since the Min­neso­ta Rep­re­sen­ta­tive was born in Somalia.

On 19th July, Trump start­ed tweet­ing about ASAP Rocky. He offered to pay for the rapper’s bail, even though the finan­cial-based pol­i­cy is not applic­a­ble to Sweden’s crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem,. But the Unit­ed States and Swedish sys­tems share a com­mon­al­i­ty of hold­ing pris­on­ers in iso­la­tion, before sentencing. 

Applaud­ed for their low incar­cer­a­tion rates, Swedish pros­e­cu­tors are required to present evi­dence of a prob­a­ble crime, yet can exer­cise agency in rela­tion to pur­suit of a tri­al. Com­pared to the Amer­i­can crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem of juries and elect­ed civil­ian bureau­crats, judges and pros­e­cu­tors work in col­lab­o­ra­tion with schol­ars to main­tain an evi­dence-based jus­tice sys­tem, Yet, Swedish offi­cials halt­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Unit­ed States Embassy to meet with Rocky and the mem­bers of his entourage arrest­ed along­side him, Bladimir Corniel and David Rispers Jr. This was against stan­dard pro­to­col and procedures. 

Rocky, born Rakim Mey­ers, vol­un­tar­i­ly spoke to offi­cials at a local Swedish juris­dic­tion after videos sur­faced online depict­ing the alter­ca­tion. Although videos on the rapper’s Insta­gram, dis­played the two men, one iden­ti­fied as Mustafa Jafari, as assailants, Jafari weaponised his head­phones and inflict­ed harm on Rocky’s body­guard. Despite Rocky’s attempts of self-advo­ca­cy, the rap­per was arrest­ed and sub­ject­ed to soli­tary con­fine­ment, after being clas­si­fied as a flight risk on 5th July by the Swedish Pros­e­cu­tion Authority.

The fol­low­ing day, Rocky’s close affil­i­ate A$AP Ferg utilised Insta­gram to inform fans of Rocky’s incar­cer­a­tion, He’s in Swe­den locked up in soli­tary con­fine­ment with no vis­it or phone call priv­i­leges. They are try­ing to keep him there for 2 weeks and if con­vict­ed he will be look­ing at 6 years just for defend­ing him­self in a fight. He was no way in form the aggres­sor in this ordeal. Pray for jus­tice. #freeflacko”.’

Last year, G-Eazy was arrest­ed for assault, pos­ses­sion of drugs, and use of nar­cotics, after a club inci­dent last year, and was released from Swedish author­i­ties with­in 36 hours. Facts. This is the sad truth…The dif­fer­ence between me and Rocky’s treat­ment and process in Swe­den brings to mind two con­cepts that dis­gust­ing­ly go hand in hand: white priv­i­lege and sys­temic racism. Let’s call it what it is. He should not be behind bars right now. My heart goes out to my broth­er @asaprocky and his team. We’re rid­ing for yall. #Jus­tice­For­Rocky #Free­Rocky”, the Oak­land rap­per post­ed on Insta­gram high­light­ing the racial dis­par­i­ties in sen­tenc­ing and treat­ment among the two rappers. 

In light of Rocky’s sit­u­a­tion, Qua­vo of the Migos spoke out about his treat­ment from Swedish author­i­ties: As soon as we went to Swe­den, they had me and my cam­era­man on the curb and they were try­ing to lock us up too. They end­ed up let­ting us go. It is what it is, but Swe­den real tough”. In 2015, Snoop Dogg was arrest­ed by Swedish author­i­ties and sub­ject­ed to a drug test. He pledged to boy­cott Swe­den, argu­ing that he had been racial­ly pro­filed. There is a clear pat­tern of behav­iours enact­ed by Swedish author­i­ties in their treat­ment of Amer­i­can rap­pers, and cen­tred on their racial identity. 

Tyler, the Cre­ator, ScHool­boy Q, T.I., and Lil Yachty have pledge to boy­cott Swe­den, due to their clear dis­crim­i­na­to­ry prac­tices towards Black hip-hop artists. At the Real Street fes­ti­val in Ana­heim, Cal­i­for­nia, his first per­for­mance since incar­cer­a­tion, ASAP Rocky, said Hip-hop nev­er looked so strong togeth­er”. Joined by YG and Tyler, Rocky exclaimed about his thank­ful­ness to God and his friends who prayed through­out the scary and hum­bling” expe­ri­ence. Although sol­i­dar­i­ty abounds, Rocky’s estab­lished com­ments about the pass­ing of Michael Brown in Fer­gu­son, and emer­gence of the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment, have cre­at­ed an intra-com­mu­ni­ty rift in the Black com­mu­ni­ty about the Harlem rap­per. In 2016, Rocky self-described the move­ment as a band­wag­on” and evoked All Lives Mat­ter” rhetoric dur­ing a radio appear­ance on The Break­fast Club. As Black com­mu­ni­ties organ­ised against state vio­lence and for the acknowl­edg­ment of their lives through­out the Unit­ed States, these indi­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies were unsym­pa­thet­ic to Rocky’s sit­u­a­tion in Swe­den, because of his dis­mis­sive atti­tude towards for the plight for civ­il and human rights. 

Against Rocky’s pleas of self-defence against Mustafa Jafari, the Stock­holm Dis­trict Court found the 30-year-old rap­per, guilty of assault, and man­dat­ed the pay­ment of plaintiff’s dam­ages. Due to his three weeks of soli­tary con­fine­ment in a Swedish deten­tion cen­tre, the judge felt the Rocky received sat­is­fac­to­ry jail time, and sus­pend­ed his sen­tenc­ing. The rapper’s con­di­tion­al sen­tence, a two-year pro­ba­tion­ary peri­od, could be appealed by ASAP Rocky and his legal team. 

As Rocky assim­i­lates into soci­ety after his expe­ri­ence of being racial­ly pro­filed by Swedish author­i­ties, Kanye West’s words in All Falls Down come to mind: Even if you in a Benz, you still a nig­ga in a coupe.” From here, Rocky could have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to rec­ti­fy harm inflict­ed upon the Black com­mu­ni­ty for his pre­vi­ous com­ments, or he could be utilised by Pres­i­dent Trump as a ploy to gar­ner Black mil­len­ni­al votes for the upcom­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. The deci­sion is his. 

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