Rapper Lil Baby was released from custody by police in Paris on Friday. He received a fine for having cannabis in his car, according to city prosecutors. He was stopped along with NBA star James Harden, who was fresh but not detained.
Lil Baby’s arrest Thursday along one of the French capital’s most exclusive roads shocked fans of both high-profile Americans in the city for Paris Fashion Week. Questions also arose about racial profiling in France.
After the release, the rapper posted “I’m good” on Instagram and said he was on his way back to the US
Plainclothes police stopped Harden, Lil Baby and his bodyguard because there was a strong odor of cannabis from their car, according to a French police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to be named in public.
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The official said Lil Baby, whose real name is Dominique Jones, initially refused to let police check the car. The situation was tense because the Americans did not understand what was happening. Uniformed officers then arrived and continued searching the car and found 32 grams of cannabis, according to the official.
Lil Baby and the bodyguard were arrested on suspicion of transporting drugs and were released Friday morning after being handed fines according to the prosecution.
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Video of the incident, shared online, shows an ordinary cloth officer tempting a confused Harden while holding his phone.
A student in the area described looking ruckus at what is usually a quiet avenue lined with luxury shops. “I turned my head and it was incredible I saw Lil Baby and James Harden … they are standing and being refreshed,” said witness Lance Avraham Pena.
Language seemed to pose a problem and police did not recognize the two Americans, said Pena, who filmed some of the scene.
Fans of Harden and the singer in France raised concerns online about racial profiling. But the Paris police department seemed to reject proposals that the arrest was unfounded by tweeting that it was based on a “violation”. Both men are black and police officers are white.
A lawyer who has investigated racial profiling in France asked: “Would a white person have been stopped in the same way? … It is not safe at all.”
Lawyer Slim Ben Achour cited research showing that white people in France are less likely to be stopped and imprisoned or fined for this type of substance abuse. The investigation also showed that the police are more likely to carry out identity checks on black or Arab men in housing projects known for crime, or in neighborhoods where the assumption is that they “do not belong”.
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“You see you can be a millionaire or a superstar and you always have this stigma,” Achour told the AP. “Black Americans have their own problems, and some believe that Europe is better, and they see that … there are common problems.”
A representative of Lil Baby did not respond to requests for comment.
Harden posted photos online shortly before the arrest of the two friends at various locations in Paris.