Jussie Smollett‘s family is speaking out.
The Empire star’s family broke their silence on Thursday, two days after he had been the target of a homophobic and racist attack in Chicago.
“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,” the Smollett Family said in a statement to ET.
“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,” the statement continued. “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,” the statement concluded. “With love & gratitude, the Smollett Family.”
Actress Jurnee Smollett-Bell, the Empire star’s sister, shared an emotional message to her Instagram, alongside a smiling snapshot of herself and her brother, along with their siblings.
“Because there’s a light in him that cannot be dimmed, because we are a family of joyful warriors, we will not let this get the best of us,” she wrote. “Although this is a picture from happier times, this is the spirit to which we chose to move forward…they will not steal, our joy.”
The attack occurred on Tuesday morning, a source previously told ET, claiming that Smollett was walking in Chicago when two men started yelling racial and homophobic slurs at him, before repeatedly hitting him. According to the source, the men then poured a substance on him believed to be bleach and one of the attackers put a rope around his neck.
On Wednesday night, the Chicago Police Department — who previously told ET that they were investigating the case as a possible hate crime — shared photos of persons of interest in the case, taken from a surveillance camera in the area.
A spokesperson for the Chicago Police Department previously told ET that Smollett still had the rope around his neck from the attack when he made contact with officers at 2:42 a.m. on Tuesday. The spokesperson says that Smollett told detectives in a follow-up interview late Tuesday afternoon that his two attackers yelled, “MAGA country” to him during the attack. According to police, the offenders fled the scene.
A source told ET on Tuesday that Smollett — who has received an outpouring of support from his Empire co-stars, as well as other celebrities — is “thankful to be alive.”
“Jussie is surrounded by family and friends and is thankful to be alive,” the source said. “Jussie is a fighter and will come out of this stronger.”
On Thursday, a source told ET that Smollett was gearing up to return to work again. He plans to return to work on Empire when the show picks back up after being on temporary shutdown due to the weather, and is expected to still perform his scheduled set at the Troubadour in West Hollywood on Saturday.
“Jussie is planning to perform a musical show this weekend in L.A. Jussie is strong. He knows that what happened to him is unfortunate, but he’s not going to let it get the best of him,” the source said. “He’s a fighter and will push through this, like everything else he has fought through in his life.”
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