“Black Lives Matter” is the chant being heard in Virginia tonight on the University campus. Early Wednesday morning, Martese Johnson, a student at the University of Virginia, wanted to go in the Trinity Irish Pub. The bouncer stopped him at the door and then an Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) officer took Johnson’s arm and pulled him over to speak to a group of officers. Johnson asked the ABC officer to please let go of him. When Johnson asked the officer to let go of his arm, he also tried to pull away from him, when another ABC officer grabbed Johnson from behind and the two officers tackled Johnson to the ground. When Johnson was tackled, he hit his head on the ground and a friend took a picture of Johnson on the ground, being arrested with his face covered in blood.
The arrest, the blood, the unnecessary force have stirred the tensions between law enforcement and young black men. The governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, has ordered an investigation.
Johnson was with his friend, Bryan Beaubrun when the incident happened. It was Beauburn who took the picture of Johnson on the ground being arrested while bloodied. Beauburn said that Johnson was not being aggressive when he was tackled. There is also a video of Johnson’s arrest and he seems to be saying, “I go to UVA” repeatedly. An officer can be heard yelling for him to put his hands behind his back and stop fighting.
Ten stitches later Johnson was charged with public swearing or intoxication and obstruction of justice without force. J. Miller, the ABC agent who arrested Johnson, said in his report that Johnson “was very agitated and belligerent.”
Johnson was junior and senior class vice president at Kenwood Academy. Dixon Romeo and Johnson were co-vice presidents of Men of Distinction, a group involved in community service projects. Romeo says that Johnson is a great leader who is serious about school.
Daniel P. Watkins, Johnson’s lawyer, gave a statement Wednesday night saying Johnson is devastated from the incident. Johnson is a 20-year-old, third year student at UVA. Johnson is studying Italian and Media Studies and holds many leadership positions at UVA and does not have a criminal record. Watkins said the matter will be vigorously investigated.
Wednesday night there was a protest on campus attended by about 1,000 students. In the outdoor amphitheater students were angry and chanted, “Black Lives Matter!” Students want justice. Johnson attended the protest and briefly spoke. He asked for everyone to respect each other and reminded them that they were one community. The school’s president Theresa Sullivan, briefly attended the protest but she spoke to reporters and did not address the UVA crowd.
There was a statement made by a group called, “Concerned Black Students” who believes Johnson’s arrest to be extreme and unprovoked. The unnecessary force caused bodily and head injuries. Johnson did not resist arrest or questioning.
The ABC released a statement saying uniformed agents saw and then approached an unidentified individual after he was not allowed into a licensed business at 12:45 a.m. at an area near campus called, “the Corner” where there are bars and restaurants. The ABC said the individual was injured when arrested and he received treatment at a local hospital before he was released. The agents involved in Johnson’s arrest are restricted to administrative duties while the investigation is ongoing.
Today, students met at the UVA library to protest Johnson’s arrest. They gathered and chanted “Black Lives Matter” just as it has been heard all over the country. At 12:30 p.m. the outdoor march was brought inside.
Political leaders are getting involved. Thursday, 57th District Delegate David Toscano (D) says the community as well as himself, do not understand why Alcoholic Beverage Control agents are taking on the job of the Charlottesville police. This is not the first time ABC agents have arrested a UVA student. In 2013, Elizabeth Daly, a UVA student was also arrested by ABC agents. Toscano said that it is obvious that ABC agents have a history of overreacting and creating problems for themselves and citizens. Black lives do matter, white lives, Hispanic lives, Japanese, Chinese, Korean….all lives matter and should be protected.
By Jeanette Smith
Photo courtesy of Bob Mical – Flickr License