PARIS (AP) – Paris police released rapper Lil Baby on Friday after fining him for having cannabis in his car, according to the city’s prosecutor’s office. He was arrested along with NBA star James Harden, who was searched but not detained.
Lil Baby’s arrest on Thursday along one of the chicest avenues in the French capital shocked fans of the two prominent Americans, in town for Paris Fashion Week – and also resurfaced questions about racial profiling in France.
After his release, the Grammy-nominated Atlanta rapper posted on Instagram “I’m Good” and said he was returning to the United States.
Plainclothes policemen arrested Harden, Lil Baby and his bodyguard after a strong smell of cannabis was coming out of their car, according to a French police official who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to be publicly appointed.
The official said Lil Baby, real name Dominique Jones, initially refused to allow police to check the car. The situation was tense because the Americans did not understand what was going on. Uniformed officers then arrived and searched the car, finding 32 grams of cannabis, the official said.
Lil Baby and the bodyguard were taken into custody on suspicion of carrying drugs and released Friday morning after being fined, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Video of the incident shared online shows an officer in plain clothes searching a confused-looking Harden as he holds his phone.
A neighborhood student said he saw the ruckus on what is normally a quiet avenue lined with upscale boutiques. “I turned my head and it was amazing, I saw Lil Baby and James Harden… they are standing and being searched,” said witness Lance Avraham Pena.
The language appeared to be a problem and the police did not recognize the two Americans, said Pena, who filmed part of the scene.
Fans of Harden and the singer in France have raised concerns online about racial profiling. But the Paris police department appeared to deflect suggestions that the arrest was baseless by tweeting that it was based on an “offense.” Both men are black and the police are white.
A lawyer who has researched racial profiling in France asked: “Would a white person have been arrested in the same way? … It is not sure at all.
Lawyer Slim Ben Achour cited research showing whites in France are less likely to be arrested and searched or fined for this type of drug-related offense. Research has also shown that police are more likely to carry out identity checks on black or Arab males in housing estates known to be criminal, or in neighborhoods where they are assumed to ‘don’ do not belong ”.
“You see you can be a millionaire or a super star and you still have that stigma,” Achour told the AP. “Black Americans have their own problems and some think Europe is better, and they see that … there are common problems.”
A representative for Lil Baby did not respond to requests for comment.
Lil Baby topped the charts with his second album of 2020 “My Turn” and reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 charts with his hit “The Bigger Picture”, which chronicles the murder of George Floyd and other police abuse. In the first stills of his Grammy “Bigger Picture” video released earlier this year, police pull a black man out of his car and slam him to the ground.
His collaborative album with Lil Durk titled “The Voice of the Heroes” debuted at No. 1 this year. Other hits include “Yes Indeed”, featuring Drake, and “Drip Too Hard”. He won Best Male Hip-Hop Artist at this year’s BET Awards and was named Artist of the Year at the Apple Music Awards last year.
Harden, meanwhile, posted photos online shortly before the two friends were arrested at various locations in Paris, but has not commented publicly since the incident.
Harden, the 2018 NBA MVP, played for the Houston Rockets before joining the Nets this season. He briefly committed to playing for the United States Men’s National Team at the Tokyo Olympics later this month, but has since told the national team that the hamstring injury that has left him touched in the NBA playoffs would not allow him to participate.
Kristin Hall in Nashville contributed.