Wednesday night about a thousand people flooded the University of Virginia campus to protest the arrest of Martese Johnson, an honor student and campus leader at the university. News of Johnson’s arrest quickly went viral when images and video of his bloody face began spreading across social media on Wednesday. The gory scene led many to ask if any space is safe for young, Black people.
According to reports, Johnson, 20, was attempting to gain entry to a local pub near the UVA campus when he was accosted by Alcoholic Beverage Control officers over his ID and slammed to the ground.
UVA’s Black Student Alliance released a statement about the ordeal, insisting Johnson did not resist questioning and was complying with the officers’ commands when they harshly took him down.
“After Martese was denied entry to the bar, he found himself suddenly flung to the ground. The brutish force used resulted in his head and bodily injuries. His treatment was unprovoked as he did not resist questioning or arrest. In confusion, with blood painting his face and creating a pool on the bricks of the corner, he yelled out for mercy,” the statement read.
As a result of the incident, Johnson needed 10 stiches to close wounds to his face, and was charged with obstruction of justice without force and public swearing or intoxication.
During the protest on Wednesday night, the third-year student called for unity.
“This University opened me up,” Johnson said. “You being here is the reason why I still believe in the community of trust even with a busted head.”
He continued: “Regardless of your personal opinions and the way you feel about subjects, please respect everyone here. We’re all part of one community. We deserve to respect each other especially in times like this.”
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has ordered an investigation of Johnson’s arrest by Alcoholic Beverage Control agents, and UVA president Teresa A. Sullivan said the security of the university’s students is her top priority.
“The safety and security of our students will always be my primary concern, and every member of our community should feel safe from the threat of bodily harm and other forms of violence,” she said in a letter to students and employees. “Today, as U.Va. students, faculty, and staff who share a set of deeply held values, we stand unified in our commitment to seeking the truth about this incident.”
Since images from Johnson’s arrest went viral, the hashtag #JusticeForMartese has been trending on Twitter with many asking how many more incidents of police violence need occur before we see substantive change.
While many have wondered how long the #BlackLivesMatter movement can last, cases such as this prove the call for justice will not die down anytime soon.
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