Two days after an alleged racial and homophobic assault on the Empire star in Chicago, Jussie Smollett’s family has hit back at the attack, the as yet unknown individuals who perpetrated it and similar “hate crimes” against “our sisters, brothers and our gender non-conforming siblings.”
“Oftentimes ending fatally, these are inhumane acts of domestic terrorism and they should be treated as such, the Smollett family including Underground alum Jurnee Smollett-Bell added in a statement Thursday. “They will continue to occur until we hold each other accountable. Make no mistake, words matter.”
The latter sentence in the statement (which is in full below) appears to be aimed at unconfirmed reports that the attackers chanted “this is MAGA country” at the actor who plays the openly gay Jamal Lyon on the Taraji P. Henson- and Terrence Howard-led Empire.
The Chicago Police have confirmed that Smollett was attacked in the early hours of January 29 having just returned to the very cold Windy City on a delayed flight from NYC. the actor was hit over and over and had an unknown chemical substance that we’ve been told was bleach poured over him. The attackers also reportedly put a rope around Smollett’s neck before fleeing the scene.
After reporting the assault to police and conducting an initial interview with them, Smollett drove himself to Northwestern Hospital. He returned to his home under increased security later Tuesday and was said to be in good condition, police said.
Empire co-creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong as well as Fox have offered strong words of support for Smollett, who plays the openly gay Jamel Lyon on the primetime series. The show shut down for production yesterday due to the harsh cold covering the MidWest but Empire is filming today, as Deadline reported earlier.
Late Wednesday, Chicago PD released released video surveillance images of what they call “people of interest” in the January 29 attack on Smollett. Earlier this week, the police said that they were treating the incident as a “possible hate crime.”
There are no briefings set for today from the police’ chief communications officer Anthony Guglielmi on Thursday in what he now referred to as an “assault and battery case.”
Read the full statement from the Smollett family here:
“In the early hours of Tuesday morning, our beloved son and brother, Jussie, was the victim of a violent and unprovoked attack. We want to be clear, this was a racial and homophobic hate crime. Jussie has told the police everything from the very beginning. His story has never changed, and we are hopeful they will find these men and bring them to justice. Our family thanks everyone for their prayers and the huge amount of love he has received. We are thankful to our village for your immense support during this trying time. We are so grateful that God saw him through this cowardly attack alive. Jussie is a warrior whose light cannot be dimmed. We want people to understand these targeted hate crimes are happening to our sisters, brothers and our gender non-conforming siblings, many who reside within the intersection of multiple identities, on a monthly, weekly, and sometimes even daily basis all across our country. Oftentimes ending fatally, these are inhumane acts of domestic terrorism and they should be treated as such. They will continue to occur until we hold each other accountable. Make no mistake, words matter. Hateful words lead to hateful actions. Radical love is the only solution, but passivity will be our downfall. We, as a family, will continue to work for love, equity and justice until it reigns supreme in our nation and all over the world.