University of Virginia staff and students rallied alongside members of the local community on campus yesterday, to showcase support for third year honor student, Martese Johnson, who was severely injured while being arrested by Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agents earlier that day.
Authorities are said to be investigating the incident, which occurred outside Trinity Irish Pub on Wednesday, after 20-year-old Johnson's arrest triggered a public outcry. Video footage and images of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity member's bloodied face were circulated in emails sent to University students and administrators before going viral on social networking sites.
In the video Johnson is heard yelling at ABC agents while handcuffed; "You f------ racists!" and "How did this happen, you f------ racists?"
Black Dot, a UVA student group, organized the rally to protest police brutality relating to Johnson's arrest. Hundreds gathered in the amphitheater to lend support in the wake of nationwide racial unrest stemming from unrelated incidents in the likes of Ferguson and Staten Island.
"This is not about our anger today," said a rally organizer, Aryn Frazier reported the Cavalier Daily. "Everyone here has a lot to be angry about. We're here for Martese. We are here to love the countless other victims of police brutality. We are here for them. We are here because we could be them."
Johnson was arrested by ABC agents at about 12:45 a.m. on Wednesday after he was denied entry from a pub. He is charged with resisting arrest, obstructing justice without threats of force, and profane swearing or intoxication in public.
Alcohol and Beverage Control special agent J. Miller, who was the arresting officer, noted on the arrest record that Johnson "was very agitated and belligerent but [has] no previous criminal history."
Johnson sustained head injuries during his arrest after his head hit the pavement and he required 10 stitches. He was held at $1,500 bail and released hours later.
During the rally, he thanked the hundreds of supporters who showed up in his honor.
"This University opened me up," Johnson said at the rally. "You being here is the reason why I still believe in the community of trust even with a busted head standing here on this stage."
Some media reports claim the UVA honor student was caught using a fake i.d., however; these claims have not been verified by police.
A state investigation was launched at the request of University President, Teresa Sullivan. Agents involved in the arrest have been placed on administrative duties pending the investigation.
Johnson's attorney accused police of assaulting his client during the arrest.
"Just before handcuffing him, police took Martese to the ground, striking his head on the pavement," attorney Daniel Watkins said according to ABC7.
In an email sent out by Black Dot, the student group said the arrest was unprovoked and they accused police of using excessive force.
"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," Black Dot wrote in the email which was signed off by "Concerned Black Students."
"In confusion, with blood painting his face and creating a pool on the bricks of the corner, he yelled out for mercy," the email continued. "We demand there be a swift and thorough investigation on the state, local, and University levels."
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said that he was "concerned" after news of the incident broke and Attorney General Mark Herring commended the investigation.
Johnson is the Committee vice-chair for community relations and he serves on the Black Student Alliance executive board. He is scheduled to appear in Charlottesville General District Court on March 26 to face misdemeanor charges.
Calls to Johnson's attorney and to the Black Student Alliance were not returned by the time of publication.