Ava DuVernay, Civil Rights Activists React To New Turns In Jussie Smollett Attack Case

LOS ANGELES, CA - March 20: Jussie Smollett, At Spring Premiere Of FOX's "Empire" At The Pacific Theatres at The Grove In California on March 20, 2017. Credit: FS/MediaPunch /IPX
FS/MediaPunch /IPX

Ava DuVernay has spoken out about the latest developments in the Jussie Smollett case, saying she wants more details before rushing to judgement.

“Despite the inconsistencies, I can’t blindly believe Chicago PD. The department that covered up shooting Laquan McDonald over a dozen times? That operated an off-site torture facility? That one? I’ll wait. Whatever the outcome, this won’t stop me from believing others. It can’t,” DuVernay tweeted today.

African-American teen McDonald was fatally shot by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke in 2014. The officer responded after someone reported a man — later identified as 17-year-old McDonald — was breaking into cars. Van Dyke shot the teen 16 times and was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery.

DuVernay frequently addresses civil rights issues and just recently wrapped production on the Central Park Five limited series for Netflix about five Harlem teenagers wrongly convicted, first in the media and then twice in the courts, for the 1989 rape of a jogger in the New York City park.

Her comments came in response to a Jan. 29 incident, in which Smollett told Chicago police he was walking down the street when two men started yelling racial and homophobic slurs, then beat him, doused him with a chemical and wrapped a rope around his neck.

However, the CPD said yesterday “the trajectory of the investigation” had shifted onto Smollett himself, after investigators questioned two Nigerian brothers they arrested Wednesday, and later released without charges.

“The new direction of the investigation is now based on the premise that Mr. Smollett was an active participant in the incident,” a law enforcement official close to the Chicago PD probe told Deadline.

Smollett’s attorneys insisted Saturday that the Empire star is telling the truth, saying the actor is “angered and devastated” by the direction the case has taken.

“As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with,” said defense lawyers Todd S. Pugh and Victor P. Henderson in a statement obtained by Deadline.

But civil rights activists in Los Angeles aren’t convinced Smollett has been completely forthcoming. On Sunday they held a press conference outside an LAPD station, and called on the actor to apologize, saying his statements have caused damage to the African-American and LGBTQ communities.

“Jussie Smollett put people’s lives at risk and could have created a situation that was much more damaging to those who are African-American and those who do identify with the LGBTQ community,” stated Project Islamic Hope Director and CEO Najee Ali.

“We have many members of the black community and the LGBTQ community who have been the victims of hate crimes. So for Smollett to say that he was a victim of racism and hate crimes — and we believe that is a lie — certainly is an injustice to those true victims of racism and hate crimes,” Ali added.

While the activist is basing his statements on media reports, he said he believes Smollett should be prosecuted for allegedly filing a false police report.

“Jussie Smollett must be brought to justice for lying,” Ali said. “We believed Smollett at the beginning. We gave him the benefit of the doubt, but over the last few days, we’ve seen this campaign of lies by Smollett continue to be unraveled.”

This article was printed from https://deadline.com/2019/02/ava-duvernay-civil-rights-activists-react-to-jussie-smollett-attack-case-1202559289/