A Black Lives Matter leader on Tuesday affirmed the movement’s support for Jussie Smollett, the actor who allegedly falsely claimed he was the victim of a racist and homophobic hate crime, arguing that activists “can never believe police” over a black man.
Melina Abdullah, a former California State University professor and the co-founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, defended Smollett as having been “courageously present, visible, and vocal in the struggle for Black freedom” and criticized the trial as a “white supremacist charade.”
“So let’s be clear: we love everybody in our community,” Abdullah wrote in a statement on the website for the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation. “It’s not about a trial or a verdict decided in a white supremacist charade, it’s about how we treat our community when corrupt systems are working to devalue their lives.”
“In an abolitionist society, this trial would not be taking place, and our communities would not have to fight and suffer to prove our worth,” added Abdullah, who is director of a Defund the Police group. “Instead, we find ourselves once again being forced to put our lives and our value in the hands of judges and juries operating in a system that is designed to oppress us, while continuing to face a corrupt and violent police department who has proven time and again to have no respect for our lives.”
Smollett is accused of making a false report to Chicago police in January 2019, when he claimed he had been attacked by two men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs at him and wrapped a rope around his neck. He told police the assault occurred in the middle of a frigid Chicago night while he was out picking up a Subway sandwich.
Police investigated the alleged incident, which Smollett claimed happened in the upscale neighborhood of Streeterville, but ultimately shifted their focus to probing whether Smollett paid brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo to stage an attack after first investigating the brothers as persons of interest. The 39-year-old actor allegedly orchestrated the fake hate crime to “promote his career” and paid the two men $3,500 to help him, former Chicago police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson said.
Smollett faces six counts of felony disorderly conduct for allegedly making four separate false reports to Chicago police officers. The actor has repeatedly maintained his innocence.
Abdullah argued that “police lie and Chicago police lie especially.”
“While policing at-large is an irredeemable institution, CPD is notorious for its long and deep history of corruption, racism, and brutality,” she wrote.
“Black Lives Matter will continue to work towards the abolition of police and every unjust system,” she added. “We will continue to love and protect one another, and wrap our arms around those who do the work to usher in Black freedom and, by extension, freedom for everyone else.”