An actor appearing on the television show Empire was attacked by men in Chicago on Tuesday in a possible hate crime, AFP reported. Jussie Smollett claimed he was attacked by men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs at him and physically assaulted him.
Smollett, who is openly gay, was hospitalised after the attack, which took place around 2 am as he was walking downtown. The actor and singer was reportedly in Chicago for a concert scheduled for February 2.
According to the police, the two attackers poured “an unknown chemical substance” on Smollett and then wrapped a rope around his neck. Smollet told police that the attackers shouted “MAGA country” during the attack. “Maga” stands for “Make America Great Again”, Donald Trump’s election campaign slogan in 2016.
“Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime,” said the Chicago Police Department.
The Chicago Police later told ABC News that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is assisting in the probe.
Although the police did not name the victim and only said he was an actor from Empire, Smollett’s fellow cast members and production company identified him as the victim.
The police are yet to make any arrests in the case, the Chicago Tribune reported. The police on Tuesday collected footage from city and private cameras in the Streeterville neighbourhood where the attack took place, but were yet to identify any suspects. “Detectives are currently working to gather video, identify potential witnesses and establish an investigative timeline,” said Chicago Police Department spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi.
The Fox network, which produces and airs Empire, said it was “deeply saddened and outraged” with the attack. “We will work with law enforcement to bring these perpetrators to justice,” said the network. “The entire studio, network and production stands united in the face of any despicable act of violence and hate — and especially against one of our own.”
Senator Kamala Harris, who announced on January 21 that she would run for president in 2020, called the incident “an attempted modern day lynching”. “No one should have to fear for their life because of their sexuality or color of their skin,” Harris tweeted. “We must confront this hate.”