Photo by: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images
By: Brianna Adams, Contributor, Regional Music Journal
American tourists arrested in foreign countries typically draw a lot of media attention, often depending on the situation which led them there and the way they are treated. Michael Fay became somewhat of a household name in 1994 after receiving a sentence of six strokes of the cane in Singapore for theft and vandalism charges. The sentence drew large amounts of public outcry given the harsh physical practice against a young American man. In this instance, the U.S. government spoke and tried negotiating with Singapore’s government arguing that the temporary damage Fay caused does not equal the permanent scarring caning would leave. Bill Clinton, the president at the time, asked for clemency for Fay along with two dozen senators who also signed a letter appealing for clemency. Ultimately, Singapore’s government reduced his sentence from six to four strokes. While public opinion varied against and in favor of the harsh punishment, none could argue the inherent need to bring attention to a foreign issue involving a U.S. citizen.
International attention on situations in foreign countries involving Americans is not unique to crime. Perceived injustices due to differences in culture are looked upon intently, such as in the case of several American tourists who have died while vacationing in the Dominican Republic. There have been a rising number of American fatalities under mysterious circumstances with little to no cooperation from the Dominican government. Stories such as these gain widespread notoriety as people can strongly relate to the feelings and plights of surviving family members.
In either case, in the past, the U.S. government has attempted negotiations on the citizen’s behalf, so many American citizens rest easy knowing their government will call for their return should anything happen overseas. That was not the case with A$AP Rocky. Most heard of his imprisonment right when it happened. There were stories circling of the poor condition of the detention facility where he was being held and of harsh treatment he faced. There were even reports of unclean water and little food which the Swedish government has denied.
Rocky was arrested after voluntarily going to a police station to discuss the physical altercation that was circling in videos across the internet. A Swedish court ruled to detain the rapper for two weeks while investigating the alleged assault supposedly because he was a flight risk. Swedish news outlets published video of Rocky and his entourage engaged in a physical altercation with a pair of men. Prior to his surrender, the rapper also posted footage of two following him and his crew despite their repeated pleas to leave them alone to his Instagram. There were multiple videos of the confrontation that led up to the physical violence, including one in which a woman can be heard saying the two men in question touched her inappropriately. Anyone who has watched the videos with unbiased intentions cannot place blame on Rocky or his crew. It is clear that they made all reasonable effort to take themselves out of the situation to no avail. Swedish laws may be different from laws in the U.S. but facts are facts and the video evidence is too diverse to tell a lie.
Now after three weeks in Swedish lockup, Rocky was finally formally charged with assault causing actual bodily harm. After a swift trial, he was released on August 2 and will be sentenced on August 14. He is facing a 2-year maximum prison sentence.
Comparing previous international incidents with Rocky’s, one has to admit that the government dragged its feet on this one. It took way too long for the right officials to speak up and get involved. While traveling American citizens are well aware of the expectation to abide by their destination country’s but sometimes issues arise where foreign laws are broken. In these instances, the U.S. embassy gets involved. In cases where the embassy do not get adequate results in unique circumstances, the media catches wind of the unjust or controversial detainment. By the time the news outlets get information to the mass public, elected and other government officials are finding ways to contribute to the discussion and work toward a solution. In Michael Fay’s case, the President took a public stance in his desire to see Fay released. If President Trump can be described as nothing else, he is opinionated and vocal. Some find it unprofessional and annoying, but the vocal, opinionated president is exactly what A$AP Rocky needed during his detention in Sweden. A good majority of the public active on social media, knew of Rocky’s detention the day after it happened, and by then, had already seen much of the footage which clearly shows his and his entourage’s attempts to remove themselves from the situation way before the fight broke out. The day the rapper was ordered detention for a period of two weeks before even being officially charged is when the President and other influential government officials should have gotten involved even if it had been to no avail. It should not have taken personal favors from Kanye West and Kim Kardashian-West to get the president involved.
Race may also have played an issue in the detainment and delay in charges. G-Eazy was detained, charged, sentenced and released all within two days while Rocky sat locked up for weeks. The Swedish government claims Rocky’s process was normal, and he got the same treatment anyone else would have, but G-Eazy faced similar charges and had an entirely different experience.
The truth is that many factors probably affected Rocky’s extended stay in Sweden including race, public status, citizenship status and the U.S. government’s delayed involvement. American tourists just want to feel safe and protected while vacationing away from home, and one can only hope that U.S. government officials react fast enough to help in whatever situation they may find themselves in.
At this time, Rocky is free and clear to return home while awaiting his sentence. He arrived in Los Angeles on August 3.
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