martese johnson

A black University of Virginia junior was viciously beaten by police on Tuesday night. Martese Johnson, a junior from Chicago, was apparently beaten for having a fake ID. According to the Cavalier Daily, Johnson was “arrested on charges of resisting arrest, obstructing justice without threats of force, and profane swearing or intoxication in public”. According to witnesses, Johnson was not resisting arrest.

Johnson is an active student on campus and is a member of UVA’s Honor Committee, Black Student Association and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.

A group of concerned black students sent this email to the university’s community:

This morning Martese Johnson emerged with a head injury requiring 10 stitches.

He was brutalized by Virginia ABC law enforcement outside of Trinity Irish Pub. His face was bloodied. His body was bruised.

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. He was left with his blood splattered on the pavement of University Avenue.

Today, we are reminded of the gruesome reality that we are not immune to injustice; as University students, we are not impervious to the brutality that has reeled on news cycles around the country. We have marched and shouted that we are Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, but the proximity of this morning’s brutality to a member of our community has deepened that wound. It is no longer happening only on national television—it is a reality here and now at the University of Virginia that we must face as a collective.

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. Though he lay bleeding and crying out, officers continued to hold him to the pavement, pinning him down, twisting his arm, with knees to his back until he was handcuffed.

As students pleaded with officers to lift Martese from the ground they were pushed away, and some were even handcuffed and threatened with possible arrest if they did not leave the scene.

We demand there be a swift and thorough investigation on the state, local, and University levels. We have seen what happens at the University when we allow problems we have long known exist to be handled quietly, so we will not be quiet. We demand noise from each other, noise from professors, noise from administrators. Martese, like any other student at this university, like any other person in this country and in this world, deserves more than our uproar: he deserves follow through and intentional action.

Look forward to a follow up email regarding further plans and actions.


Concerned Black Students

For many students, this incident has stirred up a general sense of anger on campus. “This is serving as a huge wake up call,” student Eden Zekarias told me.

A demonstration has been planned in Charlottesville tonight. University President Teresa Sullivan has submitted a request to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to open a state investigation into Johnson’s arrest.

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