About 50 protesters demanding rapper 21 Savage‘s immediate release from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainment huddled under a covered brick building across the street from the Atlanta Immigration Court on Tuesday (Feb. 12) afternoon, watching as a government employee dumped rain-soaked petitions into a black trash bag. The names and zip codes of the more than 450,000 people who signed the Black Lives Matter petition supporting 21 Savage would never make it inside the building. Organizers said they’d been told previously they could take the petitions inside, but on Thursday were turned away at the gate. Before the crowd dispersed, the boxes of petitions had been completely cleared from in front of the building. This display, said protesters, was another clear example of ICE’s disregard for the humanity of black and brown people.
Unbeknownst to the crowd, as the 20 boxes were removed from the court’s front entrance, 21 Savage’s team was preparing to announce the rapper had “won his freedom.” Hours later, 21 Savage — born She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph — was granted bond following nine days of outrage from fans, music executives and fellow artists over his detainment. The British-born artist is expected to be released Wednesday and still faces an upcoming deportation hearing.
Savage’s manager, Justin “Meezy” Williams, had just attended the press conference along with one of Savage’s children and other members of the rapper’s team, before news of Savage’s release was announced. While there, Williams met with AUC Shut It Down organizer Clarissa Brooks about next steps in protesting the rapper’s detainment. Those plans included encouraging supporters to call the Atlanta Immigration Court’s office to demand a bail hearing in about a week. “It means a lot, especially to [21 Savage],” Williams told Billboard of the event and all the support the rapper received since being detained in Atlanta on Super Bowl Sunday.
“It’s deeper than him,” Williams said. “At the end of the day, there are millions of people in this situation that don’t have a support system.”
This was also a sentiment echoed by organizers of the event, who said they hoped to use the rapper’s case to bring awareness to black immigration issues throughout the country.
“A lot of black immigrants across the country are facing this same problem [where they are] coming into contact with law enforcement and then immediately being detained and put into proceedings for deportation,” said Clarise McCants, campaign director for social justice organization Color of Change. “There are so many millions of black immigrants out there who don’t have the same kinds of resources, celebrity and publicity to fight their cases. We’re out here to free 21 Savage, but we’re also out here to free the millions of other black and undocumented folks who under the reign of ICE’s terror.”
While at the event, Williams also cleared up any confusion about the Grammys and whether or not artists declined to show support to Savage during the awards show. While only one person gave a verbal shout out to the rapper during the broadcast, Williams said the artists who were contacted to perform in Savage’s place were actually on board with the idea.
“The artists we reached out to were ready,” he said. “At the end of the day, the Grammys is a big show. You can’t just throw things together the way you wanted it to be thrown together.”
“It’s nobody’s fault,” he added.
Following Savage’s release, organizer Clarissa Brooks declined to make an additional comment but Tweeted that the rapper’s immigration issues are far from over.
“This not the end for 21 and his family,” she said. “We have to keep fighting for him and immigrants across the country. It’s still #fuckice till the end.”
— Clarissa Brooks (@ClarissaMBrooks) February 12, 2019