The bloody arrest of Martese Johnson, a third-year honor student at the University of Virginia, has sparked collective outrage, and has the governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, requesting an investigation into the early morning incident.
Johnson had allegedly tried to use a fake ID to enter the Trinity Irish Pub, a local hangout spot in Charlottesville, when he was arrested by Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control agents and was “flung to the ground”, which resulted in him needing 10 stitches in his head.
McAuliffe, who was “concerned by the reports of this incident,” had his office issue a statement saying the Secretary of Public Safety was asked “to initiate an independent Virginia State Police investigation into the use of force in this matter.”
The arrest reportedly occurred outside the pub at 12:45 a.m. – and records from the Charlottesville General District Court show that Johnson was charged with obstruction of justice without force, and public swearing or intoxication.
Third-year university student Bryan Beaubrun witnessed the incident and said an ABC agent approached Johnson shortly after the bouncer refused to accept his ID and asked him to step aside.
“Martese was talking to the bouncer and there was some discrepancy about his ID,” said Beaubrun. “[An] ABC officer approaches Martese and grabs him by the elbow… and pulls him to the side.”
The arrest was said to take place shortly after, while Johnson was talking with a several ABC agents and Charlottesville police officers.
“It happened so quickly,” Beaubrun said. “Out of nowhere I saw the two officers wrestling Martese to the ground. I was shocked that it escalated that quickly. Eventually [he was] on the ground, they’re trying to put handcuffs on him and their knees were on his back.”
According to Yahoo, the arresting Alcoholic Beverage Control agent, listed in court records as J. Miller, stated in the arrest report that Johnson “was very agitated and belligerent.”
However, a statement issued by a University student group signed “Concerned Black Students,” alleges that the apprehension was unprovoked and extreme as Johnson did not resist questioning or arrest.
“Outside of the doors of Trinity Irish Pub, a mass of University students bore witness to the officer’s animalistic, insensitive, and brute handling of Martese,” the statement said. “He was left with his blood splattered on the pavement of University Avenue.”
University President Teresa Sullivan said in a statement to the campus that she had asked the governor to investigate the matter. Stating, that as U.Va. students, faculty, and staff “we stand unified in our commitment to seeking the truth about this incident,” Sullivan wrote. “And we stand united in our belief that equal treatment and equal justice are among our fundamental rights under the law.”
On Wednesday night, around 1000 students gathered at the UVA to demand justice for the unlawful assault of the undergraduate student.
Persons also took to Twitter to express their outrage, and #JusticeForMartese began to trend on social media.
The Huffington Post reports that Daniel P. Watkins, an attorney representing Johnson, said in a statement that “contrary to early police reports,” his client wasn’t accused of having a fake ID at the time of the arrest. Watkins stated that the ABC agents forced Johnson to the ground before handcuffing him, “striking his head on the pavement and causing him to bleed profusely from the gash on his head.”
Martese will appear in court on March 26, and is charged with a class one misdemeanor, which can carry a penalty of twelve months jail confinement and/or up to $2,500. He is also charged with a class four misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $250.
Johnson, who has no prior incidents with the law and is double-majoring in Italian and media studies – is vice chair for Community Relations of the Honor Committee, vice polemarch of the Eta Sigma chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi and a chair of the Leadership Development Committee of the Black Student Alliance.
Last year, the state of Virginia reached a $212,500 settlement with a UVA student who was arrested when her purchase of a carton of sparkling water was mistaken for beer. State ABC agents swarmed Elizabeth Daly’s SUV and tried to break her car windows, which resulted in her fleeing in terror outside a Charlottesville supermarket in April 2013.
Daly was then charged with assaulting a police officer (her car had grazed two of the agents) and eluding police. The charges were later dropped after public outcry forced the UVA student’s arrest to be re-evaluated.
[Image via Cavalier Daily]