Jussie Smollett, one of the stars of US TV series Empire, was brutally attacked by two men on Monday night in a incident that is being treated as a racially motivated hate crime.
The Chicago Police Department has appealed for witnesses to the attack, said to have been perpetrated by two white men at 2.42am as Smollett was leaving a branch of Subway.
According to TMZ, he was approached by the men, wearing ski masks, who reportedly shouted at him ‘Aren’t you that f***ot Empire n*****?’
Though he tried to fight back, Smollett was beaten to the ground, had a rope put around his neck, and bleach poured on him.
“Overnight, the Chicago Police Department received a report of a possible racially charged assault and battery involving a cast member of the television show Empire,” police told Yahoo in the US.
“Given the severity of the allegations, we are taking this investigation very seriously and treating it as a possible hate crime. Detectives are currently working to gather video, identify potential witnesses and establish an investigative timeline.”
Chicago Police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi added to ABC7 that Smollett was still wearing the rope around his neck when he contacted police, in the hope it could be used by forensics.
As they left, it’s claimed that they shouted ‘This is MAGA country’, referring to Donald Trump’s slogan ‘Make America Great Again’, however, police have since said that if that aspect of the crime did happen, it had ‘not been reported to police’.
The attack came days after reports that threatening letters had been sent to the Fox studios in Chicago, addressed to Smollett, with ‘you will die black f*g’ written inside in cut-out letters.
Lee Daniels, creator of the show, in which Smollett plays the gay son of Terrence Howard’s Lucious and Taraji P. Henson’s Cookie, posted an emotional response to the attack on his Instagram page.
“You didn’t deserve nor anybody deserves to have a noose put around your neck, to have bleach thrown on you, to be called ‘die f****t n*****’ or whatever they said to you. You are better than that. We are better than that. America is better than that. It starts at home,” he said.
“We have to love each other regardless of what sexual orientation we are because it shows we are united on a united front and no racist f*** can come in and do the things that they did to you. Hold your head up, Jussie.”