Over the weekend, family and friends of Empire star Jussie Smollett spoke out in support of their loved one, demanding his freedom from jail and maintaining his innocence.
As previously reported by The Root, on March 10, Smollett was sentenced to 150 days in Cook County jail in Chicago, 30 months of felony probation with no travel restrictions, and ordered to pay over $120,000 in restitution to the city of Chicago and a $25,000 fine. Since then, his official Instagram account has been taken over by his family, who have shared posts with updates on how their brother’s faring and the overwhelming message of #FreeJussie.
Smollett’s sister, Jurnee, who recently starred in the critically-acclaimed HBO series Lovecraft Country, spoke out in defense of her brother, writing online: “Black Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at nearly five times the rate of White Americans. Jussie is innocent. And…you don’t have to believe in his innocence to believe he should be free. #FreeJussie #StopLockingUpOurPeople.”
Smollett’s Empire costar Taraji P. Henson also spoke out on the sentencing, adding her support for the star and invoking Emmett Till.
“I am not here to debate you on his innocence but we can agree that the punishment does not fit the crime,” Henson began in her post.
Emmett Till was brutally beat and ultimately murdered because of a lie and none of the people involved with his demise spent one day in jail, even after Carolyn Bryant admitted that her claims were false. No one was hurt or killed during Jussie’s ordeal. He has already lost everything, EVERYTHING! To me as an artist not able to create that in itself is punishment enough. He can’t get a job. No one in Hollywood will hire him and again as an artist who loves to create, that is prison. My prayer is that he is freed and put on house arrest and probation because in this case that would seem fair. Please #freejussie .
Additionally, as Newsweek notes, on Sunday, supporters of Smollett also took to the steps of Cook County jail to demand his freedom.