Rapper Wiz Khalifa was stopped and eventually pinned to the ground by customs and border protection officers at Los Angeles International airport Saturday afternoon, apparently for refusing to get off his self-balancing scooter.
Khalifa, 27, posted video of the encounter on Instagram. He was returning to LAX after performing a concert in Finland. Khalifa was surrounded by agents who wanted him to dismount the personal transportation device, which he was riding through the airport. It has a maximum speed of 12 miles per hour.
“You can’t do nothing anyway. What you gon’ do, put me in jail because I didn’t listen to what you say?,” Khalifa says in one video posted to Twitter. “You can’t do nothin’. You can talk, we can have all the conversation you want to. You can end up on TMZ. You guys can become as famous as you wanna be.”
At one point while Khalifa was subdued and on the ground with his hands behind his back and at least four officers holding him down, officers continued to shout orders for Khalifa to “get on the ground” and “stop resisting.”
“I’m not resisting, sir,” Khalifa repeatedly responded.
Indicating that this wasn’t his first dubious encounter with police, Khalifa tweeted, “Haven’t been slammed and cuffed in a while. That was fun.”
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) strives to treat all travelers with respect and in a professional manner, while maintaining the focus of our mission to protect all citizens and visitors in the United States,” agency representative Jaime Ruiz said in a statement to The Washington Post, noting that privacy laws restrict the agency from discussing specific cases. “All travelers arriving into the U.S. are subject to CBP inspection, and for their own safety and the safety of other passengers, must follow officers’ instructions while in the Federal Inspection Service area.
“CBP officers are conducting their critical national security mission while facilitating the entry of legitimate travelers. An uncompliant passenger or any disruptive behavior could put many at risk in this highly secure area.”
Does it also provide amazing free publicity for PhunkeeDuck? Yes. Was Khalifa aware of that when he shared what happened to him? Absolutely.
“All because I didn’t want to ditch the technogy [sic] everyone will be using in the next 6 months. Do what you want kids,” Khalifa tweeted. “What’s even funnier than them not bein able to do s— is they’ll be riding them soon as well. Maybe ones I design.
“I stand for our generation and our generation is gonna be riding hover boards.”
On some level, we’ve accepted that celebrities lead very different lives from most of us, ones that involve a level of privilege that accompanies instant recognizability. Usually we associate that privilege with mansions, expensive cars and gifting suite swag on which most people couldn’t afford to pay taxes.
Wiz Khalifa is rich. He’s famous. He co-parents his son Sebastian with Amber Rose and he gets photographed with him on the step-and-repeat at the Teen Choice Awards.
He can go to Finland and be greeted by screaming fans who are thrilled to be doused with the water he drinks and then sprays into the crowd surrounding his stage. And then hours later, he can still find himself getting his face pressed into an airport floor and ordered to “stop resisting.”
Dignity is fleeting.
And yet, it’s worth remembering that Khalifa has been on tour traveling the country with Fall Out Boy on their Boys of Zummer tour for weeks now, apparently without incident. He’s playing multiple dates in Australia next month and Europe after that. He’s performed in Cannes. Khalifa is well-versed in the routine of going through customs. We reached out to Khalifa’s representatives to find out if this was the first time he’d gone through customs while riding his scooter.
Khalifa’s encounter raises a question: If he is experiencing this, if protection from such roughshod treatment isn’t one of the comforts that modern celebrity affords in the way we often expect that it is, what’s happening to regular people who don’t release chart-topping hits like “See You Again“? People, for instance, like those depicted in Khalifa’s video for “We Dem Boyz?”
In the most grievous instances, their names become hashtags. The more common and mundane reality is that police harassment becomes little more than a fact of life.
Khalifa seemed to recognize his relative good fortune.
“I got some awesome weed and a bad one to roll it for me so it’s all good,” he tweeted.