Members of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer) and Black communities gathered at a rally here to express solidarity with Empire actor Jussie Smollett, days after he was the victim of a hate crime in Chicago. Labelled as a solidarity event, the rally's organizers on Friday aimed to show public support both for Smollett and for the larger community of LGBTQ survivors of violence, according to the Facebook event listing and Jason Walker, HIV/AIDS campaign coordinator for Vocal-NY and the rally's lead organizer, reports hollywoodreporter.com.
The two-hour rally featured over 15 speakers and was co-sponsored by more than 40 various city, state, and national organizations focusing on LGBTQ and racially marginalized communities. Walker began the event with the chant: "When queer communities are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back. When people of colour are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back." Representatives from various advocacy groups each took over the megaphone, delivering speeches demanding an end to violent attacks like those on Smollett.
[caption id="attachment_206460" align="aligncenter" width="810"] Jussie Smollett post his attack[/caption]
Beyond speaking out for Smollett and LGBTQ people of colour, speakers primarily used their time to address what they described as a growing movement of violence against LGBTQ, black, and other marginalised communities under the current presidential administration. Several speakers directly pointed to US President Donald Trump and both the language and policies as the fuel for the attack on Smollett. "The Jussie Smollett attack was politically motivated, and that represents where we are sociopolitically," said Walker.
Before Friday, Smollett had not commented on the racist and homophobic attack he experienced last week in Chicago after two men beat him, poured an unknown substance all over him and put a noose around his neck.
In the actor's first statement since the incident, he echoed many of the sentiments shared at the rally, telling Essence that his experience is representative of a larger issue. "As my family stated, these types of cowardly attacks are happening to my sisters, brothers and non-gender conforming siblings daily... I am not and should not be looked upon as an isolated incident," Smollett said.
The statement was the first Smollett has made publicly about the alleged assault since media reports about it first surfaced on Tuesday. The matter is being investigated by Chicago police as a possible hate crime. Chicago police said in a statement emailed to Reuters on Thursday the actor had refused to turn over his cellphone records to detectives, although law enforcement officials later said he was working with investigators.