Hundreds showed their support for imprisoned recording artist Meek Mill, whose real name is Robert Rihmeek Williams, at the #Rally4Meek in Philadelphia on Monday.
Protesters marched through the streets chanting “Free Meek Mill” and rapping one of his most popular songs, “Dreams and Nightmares,” outside the city’s Criminal Justice Center, where Mill was sentenced last week to up to four years in prison for a probation violation.
Celebrities, including rappers Freeway and Rick Ross, former 76ers great Julius Erving, singer Justine Skye, and the Eagles’ Malcolm Jenkins, also participated in the rally.
“I’m here for one reason, I’m here to support my brother Meek Mill,” Ross told the crowd. “If it takes Meek Mill to draw this attention, we’re gonna use Meek Mill to draw this attention for so many others. … This type of rampant incarceration has unfortunately become the calling card in urban cities throughout the U.S.”
Protesters believe Mill’s case has become the latest example of racial inequity in a justice system that unfairly punishes black people.
Mill, a Philadelphia native, was sentenced Nov. 6 to two to four years in prison for charges stemming from two arrests earlier this year for a fight and for popping wheelies on a dirt bike. Those charges, along with a failed drug test, violated his probation from a 2008 gun and drug case.
Common Pleas Judge Genece Brinkley, who has presided over prosecutions of Mill for nearly a decade, ignored recommendations from the prosecutor to not imprison him, The Associated Press reports. Mill was sent to the State Correctional Institution ― Camp Hill.
Those who have criticized the harsh sentence include Jay Z, whose record label has signed Mill, Colin Kaepernick, T.I., Remy Ma, Kevin Hart and 76ers owner Michael Rubin. Some of them have urged people to signed a Change.org petition calling on Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. Mike Stack to pardon Mill. As of Tuesday morning, the petition had more than 350,000 signatures.
Mill’s defense lawyer, Brian McMonagle, told CBS Philadelphia he’s filing paperwork on Tuesday claiming the judge has shown bias.
Joe Tacopina, another lawyer representing the “Wins and Losses” rapper, told Billboard the judge was “enamored” with Mill and showed up at his community service, something rarely done by judges. Tacopina also claimed the judge asked Mill to leave Roc Nation to sign with her friend’s recording label, and to record a cover of a Boyz II Men song as a tribute to her.
Gabriel Roberts, a spokesman for the Philadelphia court system, declined to comment, telling HuffPost the matter is “subject to future litigation.”