Earlier this year, after Baltimore police beat unarmed young man Freddie Gray to death, essentially without provocation, thousands of people took to the city streets to protest. Plenty of artists declared their solidarity, but Rihanna wanted to do them one better. She wanted to set up a free surprise concert for the protesters at the intersection of Penn and North, the epicenter of the protests, and she also wanted to march with the protesters in solidarity. But Baltimore Police weren’t having it.
As The Baltimore Sun reports, emails about the proposed concert have been made public. Capt. Eric Kowalczyk, who was head of the Baltimore Police’s media relations at the time, recounted a conversation he had with a rep for Rihanna. Apparently, Rihanna’s rep “advised that 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.”
The concert was supposedly going to go down 5/1, but according to a situation report, Baltimore police stopped it from happening: “Possible Rihanna Concert at Penn & North. No time given. Police are claiming they have no permit so it will not be allowed.”
It seems a bit backward that Rihanna needed to request police security to play a protest against overly aggressive policing, but that’s megastardom for you. At least nobody stopped the Michael Jackson protester from doing his thing.