Student Leader's Bloody Arrest Sparks Outrage at UVA

Mar 19, 2015

This photograph went viral the morning after St. Patrick's Day.
Credit Black Dot

A Virginia State Police investigation is underway regarding the March 18th arrest of an honored UVA student in Charlottesville by state ABC officers.  During the incident, the student was injured and a picture of him on the ground and bleeding from the head spread quickly on social media.

Governor Terry McAullife has ordered an administrative review, and at the request of the City of Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney, a criminal investigation is also underway.

Third year student Martese Johnson holds leadership positions in his fraternity and the Black Student Alliance, and he's been elected twice to the Honor Committee. So it's no surprise that a picture of him prone and bleeding under the hands of uniformed Alcoholic Beverage Control Board officers would spark outrage.

"How does that make you feel?" "Angry."

Protestors marched through the streets of Charlottesville.
Credit Photo: Hawes Spencer

University president Teresa Sullivan was part of Wednesday night's crowd.

"To see the picture of him lying there with the blood streaming down his face, that was very difficult for me as a mother, to see."

Sullivan says that when she determined state agents were responsible she asked the governor to launch an investigation.

"We need to know where justice lies in this case, and we need to try and rectify an injustice that's occurred."

While approximately 2,000 students filled UVA's McIntire Amphitheater for two hours of supporting Johnson and condemning allegations of racism, a group of about 150 marched a mile downtown to the headquarters of the Charlottesville Police, even though that Department wasn't the arresting agency.

"I go to UVA, I go to UVA..."

That's from a video of the part of the incident, and Johnson's lawyer says this never-previously-arrested young man has been charged with two misdemeanors: obstruction of justice as well as drunk and/or profane conduct.

Johnson, who received ten stitches to close his head wound, seemed touched by the rally.

"You all being here is the absolute reason why I still believe in a community of trust-- even with a busted head." 

This isn't the first time ABC officers have provoked outrage in Charlottesville. Two years ago, agents jailed a student after mistaking her purchase of seltzer water as beer. Her ensuing lawsuit prompted calls to disband the agency and resulted in a nearly $250,000  settlement.

Johnson, left, appeared moved by the rally.
Credit Photo: Hawes Spencer