Music/Features

Philly judge calls Meek Mill a danger to society — he’s not

December 6, 2017

Meek Mill's complicated and ongoing relationship with the American prison system is hardly an isolated incident.

On Dec. 1st, Common Pleas Judge Genece Brinkley denied Meek Mill’s bail, labeling him “a danger to the community” as the primary reason for the ruling. The 30-year old rapper and songwriter from Philadelphia, born Robert Rihmeek Williams, had violated his probation five times since 2011 for several gun and drug convictions he obtained a decade prior as a teenager.

While it stands that five probation violations will cause most judges to “really lay the hammer down,” as Pennsylvania state prosecutor and parole board member Matt Mangino explained in a recent interview, the true nature of these violations range from the typical to completely benign. Simultaneously, the storied and now well-publicized relationship between Meek Mill and Judge Brinkley sits the sentencing in a swamp of controversy.

As a 3-year former resident of south Philadelphia, I can’t help but feel as though more people who live down there would tell you that they’re much more fearful of the Philadelphia Police Counter Terrorism vehicles that sometimes patrol the area than they are of Meek Mill.

The convictions his probations stem from are now 10 years old, and it’s more than clear that he’s not the same person now as he was then. His latest violation comes from him doing a wheelie without a helmet on a dirtbike in Harlem in the video for his song “Trap and a Dream” with fellow artist A$AP Ferg. The charges for the altercation with a fan that attempted to get a picture with him in a St. Louis airport were dropped. Before both charges, Meek had already served a year in county prison for the initial charge that he incurred in 2007, a sentence issued by none other than Judge Brinkley.

Judge Brinkley giving a sentence stronger than what the initial prosecution only discredits the close work that Meek’s advocates had already done on the case. It privileges her position as a judge who happens to have a previous history with Meek and further allowed her to have several inappropriate “off-the-record” conversations with him in an attempt to manipulate control over his career. This same positioning now allows Brinkley to exclude discussion of these conversations from his current case as irrelevant.

As Meek’s lawyers wrote in their 14-page filing, “Judge Brinkley has assumed a non-judicial, essentially prosecutorial role in the revocation process.” When this prosecutorial role is based on a personal sense of revenge and manipulation between individuals, it begs the question of who the true danger to society is.

The legal status of his convictions aside, the claim that Meek Mill is someone who is legitimately dangerous to the well-being of society is a claim that has yet to materialize, and the outpouring of support locally and from his peers in the music industry tell a markedly different story. Signs, luminescent lettering on the sides of SEPTA buses and billboards find locations all over the Philadelphia all read the same thing: “Stand With Meek Mill.” #RALLY4MEEK saw athlete and Philly legend Julius “Dr. J” Erving and rapper Rick Ross lead a crowd of hundreds in chants outside of the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center before becoming a march around City Hall. Even Drake said “Free Meek Mill” at a recent Australia concert.

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The support follows Meek’s own history of activism in the city. Since 2013, Meek Mill has worked with local Philadelphia organization Unity in the Community to give a thousand turkeys to south Philadelphia residents. As a 3-year former resident of south Philadelphia, I can’t help but feel as though more people who live down there would tell you that they’re much more fearful of the Philadelphia Police Counter Terrorism vehicles that sometimes patrol the area than they are of Meek Mill.

It’s an ongoing tension that Carolina Torres, a programs assistant at Juntos, a community-led, immigrant rights organization based in Philidelphia, understands closely. Her organization works to counteract the direct impacts of criminalizing people of colour and focuses their work educating communities of colour on their rights when encountering police or Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“We are completely aware that the goal of [Donald Trump’s] administration is to not only fill the for-profit prisons but also the for-profit detention centers with whatever means necessary. I’d bet that most Philadelphians do not consider Meek a safety hazard and knowing this we will continue to fight for his liberation and the liberation of all people of color wrongly sentenced.”

I don’t really know why anyone has to be more or less deserving of the favor of our judicial system, but my instincts tell me that it’s a perception that’s born of the intravenous feeding of white supremacy into the worldview of Black america.

In the discussion of Meek’s treatment, I’ve seen a few people say that they don’t care about Meek’s sentencing because of his financial security; some saying they think he deserves it for his poor decision-making. Some feel as though there are political prisoners like Mumia, Leonard Peltier, and Cyntoia Brown who are more deserving of a more just and swift treatment from our legal system.

I don’t really know why anyone has to be more or less deserving of the favour of our judicial system, but my instincts tell me that it’s a perception that’s born of the intravenous feeding of white supremacy into the worldview of Black America. It stinks of the need to still measure our senses of self-worth through the eyes and values of the same judiciary that once presided over our enslavement. All of these people are political prisoners because all of them have been mistreated by our system, and the fact that this happens to someone with as much capital as Meek Mill should show us all that really nobody Black or Brown, with any amount of resources is safe from this fate.

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