The Rev. Al Sharpton visited imprisoned rapper Meek Mill on Monday, joining the growing chorus of activists and celebrities who have demanded the Philadelphia rapper's release.
Sharpton, a well-known civil rights activist from New York City, visited Mill at Chester State Prison in the small city south of Philadelphia. He talked about the upcoming trip during a rally by his group, the National Action Network (NAN) Saturday in Harlem, New York.
"Just because someone does something that is wrong, does not give you the right to do wrong to them," Sharpton told a gathering. "The sentence must fit the violation."
His group, NAN, said in a statement that lending support to Mill is consistent with its long history of "criminal justice reform efforts."
"In the 1990’s, Rev. Sharpton and others helped Tupac Shakur get out of solitary confinement at the request of his mother and NAN has been monitoring cases across the country," NAN said in a statement Saturday, which also noted the group's "criminal justice reform efforts."
Mill, born Robert Rihmeek Williams, has become a nationally-recognized figure in recent weeks after a Philadelphia Common Pleas judge sentenced him to jail for probation violations.
The judge sentenced Mill to two to four years in state prison. Twice in recent years, Judge Genece Brinkley ruled that Mill violated his probation by being associated with an alleged fight at a St. Louis airport and being charged with popping wheelies on a dirt bike in New York City.
Activists and renowned musicians from Colin Kaepernick to Jay-Z have pointed to his jailing as symbolic of what they describe as harsh treatment of blacks by the criminal justice system.
Julius "Dr. J" Erving and Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins took part in a Center City #FreeMeek" rally.
Kaepernick said in social media posts that he spoke with Mill in prison and said the rapper was "in good spirits."
Jay-Z wrote in a New York Times op-ed that the Mill has "been stalked by a system that considers the slightest infraction a justification for locking him back inside."
"Consider this: Meek was around 19 when he was convicted on charges relating to drug and gun possession, and he served an eight-month sentence," Jay-Z wrote. "Now he’s 30, so he has been on probation for basically his entire adult life."
Mill's attorneys have filed appeals to Brinkley's sentence. Brinkley, who has overseen Mill's decade-long probation, has not made a ruling on the appeal.
His attorneys have also asked that Brinkley recuse herself from Mill's case and any appeals. They claimed in court filings that the judge has expressed herself over the years "in personal, injudicious terms when ruling or explaining her rulings" in the ongoing probation hearings.
The recusal request included some tawdry accusations, like a claim that she asked the Philadelphia-born rapper to record a version of a Boyz II Men song and include a shout out to Brinkley. Another claim accuses the judge of recommending Mill leave his management agency, Roc Nation, which is headed by Jay-Z, and rejoin his original manager, a Philadelphia man named Charlie Mack.
In sending Mill to jail Nov. 6, Brinkley said Mill "does what he wants" despite repeated warnings.
Al Sharpton runs the National Action Network and is a talk-show host on MSNBC, which is owned by NBC Universal, the parent company of this site.