“We don’t want to fight y’all. We’re not trying to go to jail.”
That’s what A$AP Rocky, the 30-year-old New York City rapper, can be heard saying in a video of an encounter with strangers in Sweden that has ballooned into an international crisis. Despite Rocky’s protestation, a fight did happen. The rapper is now in jail. His saga has inflamed American pop culture and politics—and somehow brought left-leaning figures and Donald Trump–supporting nationalists to advocate for the same goal: Rocky’s release.
In two videos that Rocky posted on Instagram, two unidentified young men follow and annoy Rocky and his team around Stockholm. At one point, one of the guys appears to throw headphones at Rocky’s bodyguard. Rocky and his bodyguard repeatedly ask them to go away. The men keep tailing the rapper’s entourage; they repeatedly ask for their headphones back. A woman comes up to Rocky’s group and says that one of the men “slapped my ass and my girlfriend’s ass.” The footage cuts out.
Another video that’s been posted online shows Rocky and his associates throwing one of the men to the ground and beating him. Swedish prosecutors say CCTV footage demonstrates that Rocky’s crew “punched, kicked, and struck [the teenage Mustafa Jafari] with a glass bottle in an attack that lasted several minutes.” Rocky has been in Swedish detention since July 5, and on July 25 prosecutors charged him and two other men with assault; he says he’s innocent and acted only in self-defense. The trial begins Tuesday. Rocky could get up to two years in prison, and his lawyer argued in court that he’s already lost at least $1 million from canceled tour dates.