After 25-year old Freddie Gray died in suspicious circumstances while in police custody, riots broke out in Baltimore, his home city. Protesters marched for days against endemic police violence and fought against the continued persecution of African-Americans by a heavily armed force.
Celebrities are often criticised for not speaking out on social issues or not lending their support to fights against injustice, but emails obtained by the Baltimore Sun reveal that Rihanna wanted to visit Baltimore to play a free concert and march the streets with protesters in support of Gray.
In one of the emails, a Baltimore officer details a conversation that he’d had with the star’s management:
“Rihanna wants to walk with the protesters as well as perform a free concert, he added that she will be arriving by plane and in an effort to divert press/media she will be traveling to the city by train (or by car if necessary). [He] stated that they had hoped to secure some extra police security and was directed by the Governor's office to seek assistance through Communications.”
However, it would appear that the request to perform was denied by police. Another email said “police are claiming they have no permit so it will not be allowed".
Rihanna has long used social media to speak out on race rights. During the Baltimore riots she posted a picture of a black policeman on her Instagram, who appeared to have tears in his eyes (see below). She also posted a John Lennon quote during the Ferguson protests, a movement sparked by the death of Mike Brown.
She isn’t the only high-profile musician to have lent her support to the Baltimore cause – Beyoncé and Jay Z reportedly bailed out Baltimore protesters, spending tens of thousands in the process. Read more about police brutality against black Americans here.