Jussie Smollett has been arrested by Chicago Police and charged with felony disorderly conduct. It was three weeks ago that Smollett, star of the hit television show “Empire,” claimed that he was the victim of a racially motivated and homophobic assault by Donald Trump supporters.
Smollett claimed he was walking back to his downtown Chicago apartment when two men attacked him and hung a noose around his neck, poured bleach on him and yelled racial slurs at him.
Smollett’s claim that he was attacked drew immediate national attention and outrage by many, including comments of concern from President Trump. I also felt tremendous empathy for Smollett. I’ve met him several times at events over the years and truly admired his activism, especially for his support of Tracy Martin and Sybrina Candy Fulton, the parents of Trayvon Martin, who we both have a mutual friendship with.
I remember the last time I spoke to Smollett I told him how proud I was of him and his standing up for justice. Now I have feelings of outrage and disgust for Smollett.
As a Chicago native, I immediately had red flags in my mind of what Smollett claimed to have happened. The temperature that night was freezing cold at 10 degrees below zero. It was a polar vortex that night with temperatures that would give you frostbite if you stayed outside for too long.
Why would two men have bleach and rope and be waiting outside at 2 a.m. waiting to attack Smollett? My fellow activists in Chicago from day one didn’t believe Smollett and I understood why. I was on the fence giving him the benefit of doubt until my common sense just couldn’t be ignored. I knew in my heart Smollett was lying and it would just be a matter of time before he got caught.
But I wanted to publicly weigh in. These lies by Smollett that he spread nationwide needed to be challenged. On Feb. 17, I called a press conference in South L.A., calling for the arrest and prosecution of Smollet for lying and filing a false police report.
In my prepared statement, I said “Smollett is nothing but a modern-day version of Tawana Brawley. In the era of Donald Trump where black people continue to fight police abuse, racial profiling and violence nationwide and our LBGTQ brother and sisters continue to struggle for acceptance for the way they choose to live their own lives, Smollett’s lies have and will have a very damaging effect on our communities. His lies will only embolden Trump and all his [“Make America Great Again”] supporters. Smollett’s actions and lies will make real incidents of racists attacks and homophobia much easier to immediately dismiss.”
Since Trump has taken office, white people have become so emboldened, that they have attempted to stop black people from going into and sharing space at Starbucks, apartments, public parks, school dormitories, Napa Valley wine trains and public sidewalks
Black people and our LBGTQ brother and sisters are legitimately attacked because of their race and sexual orientation every day. For Smollett to lie helps continue to put our community in danger and at risk nationwide. Smollett must be held accountable for betraying the movement and the LBGTQ community. Our organization is calling for the immediate arrest and prosecution of Smollett.
And now that the wheels of justice have caught up with Smollet with his arrest in Chicago Feb. 21, we as a community can’t rest or stop. Now it’s time for Smollett to get what he deserves.
That day I held another press conference. Our coalition of activists included the Rev. Shane Harris and others. We called on Lee Daniels, the creator of “Empire,” to fire Smollet.
I watched on CNN as Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Smollett paid two men $3,500 to help him stage the fake attack after a crude, threatening letter he sent to the “Empire” set in Chicago failed to get attention. Johnson, a black Chicago native, said Smollett “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”
Johnson lamented the many resources Chicago police used on an investigation that lasted three weeks. Detective Commander Edward Wodnicki said detectives interviewed more than 100 individuals and utilized police pod cameras and private sector cameras to plot a timeline of the alleged assault.
The investigation eventually led them to the two men, who were arrested by police last week and later released without being charged. Johnson said police have a check that Smollett used to pay the two men.
This hoax by Smollett without question has caused major damage to his career. He not only faces prison time in Chicago but his career in Hollywood is over with for now.
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