Last night 300 students at the University of Virginia rallied to protest the violent arrest of Martese Johnson, a fellow student who was reportedly bloodied by officers Tuesday night for trying to enter a local pub with an alleged fake ID.
As students marched around campus and into town, chants of "black lives matter" filled the air. At one point the march came to a standoff, and student protestors yelled to police: "We won't go!" Johnson was among those attending the rally, with facial injuries from his altercation with the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control officers still visible.
"This University opened me up," Johnson said to students during 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."
As news of Johnson's bloody arrest continued to spread beyond campus walls Wednesday night, UVA President Teresa Sullivan released a statement expressing her primary concern for the "safety and security" of all students.
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:
I write to express my deep concern about an incident that occurred on The Corner early this morning and to provide information about immediate steps that I have taken in response.
At about 12:45 a.m., one of our students was injured while Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agents were attempting to take him into custody on the sidewalk in front of Trinity Irish Pub. University Police and Charlottesville Police arrived on the scene shortly after the incident occurred. We have not yet clarified all of the details surrounding this event, but we are seeking to do so as quickly as possible.
This morning I met with Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo and University Police Chief Mike Gibson in an effort to learn more about the incident. Furthermore, because ABC is a state agency, I contacted the Governor's office to ask for an independent investigation of the incident. In response, the Governor has asked the Secretary of Public Safety to initiate an independent Virginia State Police investigation into the use of force in this matter.
As the investigation unfolds, eyewitnesses will play an essential role in shedding light on the details of this incident. I urge students and other members of our community who witnessed the incident or have other direct knowledge of it to come forward. Please contact the Virginia State Police at 804-674-2000 immediately.
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. 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. And we stand united in our belief that equal treatment and equal justice are among our fundamental rights under the law.
Teresa A. Sullivan
Another statement released by the governor of Virginia's office called on an outside agency to investigate the use of force used during the arrest.
Governor McAuliffe is concerned by the reports of this incident and has asked the Secretary of Public Safety to initiate an independent Virginia State Police investigation into the use of force in this matter. The Governor's office has been in contact with University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan and local law enforcement and will continue to monitor this situation closely as the investigation proceeds.
Many reports have made note of Johnson's exceptional academic record, his executive involvement with the UVA Honor Committee and Black Student Alliance, as well as his outgoing, affable personality. But none of that should matter. Even if Johnson was a less-than-average student with failing grades, I'd hope an incident of this nature would still be cause for a closer look at the complicated history between local law enforcement and UVA students, as well as the terror being brought upon black and brown lives in Charlottesville.
"Its still hard for me, I can't believe I'm even up here right now, I have no words, because I'm sick and tired of this," UVA law student Manny Brown said during the open-mic portion of Wednesday night's rally. "What I'm going to do is to continue to say that black lives matter until it's true."
[Image via Getty]