News of "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett's arrest for filing a false police report has hit both his fans and critics hard.
Chicago police arrested Smollett Thursday and are accusing him of conspiring with two brothers to stage a fake hate crime, where two assailants allegedly attacked him with bleach and a noose. When Smollett first filed a police report on Jan. 29, celebrities, politicians and industry professionals denounced it as racist and homophobic.
However, the Chicago district attorney claims that Smollett planned out the incident in the hopes that it would lead to a bigger salary on the Fox show, "Empire." The actor is out on a $100,000 bond and surrendered his passport.
During a news conference Thursday morning, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said "Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career … this publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn't earn, and certainly didn't deserve."
That same morning in Los Angeles, Najee Ali, director of Project Islamic HOPE, a long-time civil rights group in South Los Angeles, called a press conference to demand Lee Daniels, the creator of "Empire", and 21st Century Fox to fire Smollett.
"The LGBT community and African-American community have been victimized for racism and hate crime for decades," Ali said in an interview with Annenberg Media. "For Smollett, to be a member of the LGBT community and African-American community, telling a lie and using it as a justification for a hoax is something he should be held accountable for."
Ali thinks Smollett's case has a major impact on how people in the LGBT and African-American community come forward for hate crimes. "This causes people in our community great concern on whether to come forward or not because they may feel like we won't be believed if we are the victims of a hate crime," he said.
After the press conference, Ali's next step is to hold a meeting with Lee Daniels and 21st Century Fox to discuss on firing Smollett. "We'll call for a national boycott of 'Empire' if it refuses to Jussie Smollett off there," Ali said.
Ali isn't the only one who says he worries about the ramifications of Smollett's alleged actions.
Christopher Smith, a USC Annenberg professor, believes that Smollett's intersectional identity and public presence should give him more responsibility for how he behaves, especially as a member of marginalized communities.
"Large numbers of communities are discounted when they provide testimonies about traumatic events," Smith pointed out that the actions of "one individual should not outweigh entire communities having cards stacked against them."
"Most people do not lie about traumatic events, this person has a psychological problem and he will be dealt with accordingly," he added.
However, Charles H.F. Davis III., a USC professor, said the public should still question official police accounts. He pointed to the Chicago Police Department and "its long standing history of being engaged in consistent civil rights violations, racial bias and targeting and their criminalization and as well as their mishandling of other injustices that have taken place."
"We should call to question the narrative that they have been constructing from the very beginning," he added.
Davis said he is also worried that police departments may use the Smollett case to be more skeptical when victims speak out.
"When it comes to people of color … certainly for queer folks and queer folks of color specifically, reporting these types of hate crimes are often not believed," Davis said.
He added that, “I think what it does is it increases the level of already existing doubt in the minds of those who were not going to believe them anyway.”
Natalie Ruxton contributed to this report.