Virginia to investigate bloody arrest of black college student Martese Johnson
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday called for an investigation into the arrest of a black college student that left him bleeding from the head and sparked campus protests.
Photographs circulated on social media showed Martese Johnson, 20, vice chairman of the University of Virginia’s Honor Committee, with a bloodied face after an arrest by state Alcoholic Beverage Control agents early on Wednesday morning.
“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,” the Democratic governor’s office said.
Johnson’s arrest, apparently after he was denied entry to a pub, is the latest incident in which police have injured or killed unarmed African-American men in the United States.
Video and images published on social media on Wednesday night showed a massive crowd gathered on the university’s campus and many marching through nearby streets, shouting phrases such as “Black lives matter,” which have been used to protest against police violence elsewhere in the country.
The phrase gained popularity after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teen in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri last summer, touching off months of protests. Just last week, an African-American man was accused of shooting and wounding two policemen there as a protest wound down.
In a video posted on the website of the University of Virginia student newspaper, three apparently white officers are holding Johnson down. “His head is bleeding,” a voice yells.
“I go to UVA,” Johnson yells repeatedly. “I go to UVA, you … racists.”
The state’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control said it would cooperate with the investigation, during which time the agents involved have been placed on administrative duties.
In a statement, the department confirmed “the individual” had been arrested after he was refused entrance to a business that serves alcohol.
The university’s Honor Committee to which Johnson belongs investigates alleged violations of the school’s honor code.
“We are outraged by the brutality against a University of Virginia undergraduate student,” UVA’s vice president for diversity, Marcus Martin, and its dean of African-American affairs, Maurice Apprey, said in a statement.
University President Teresa Sullivan asked McAuliffe to conduct an independent investigation into the arrest.
Johnson is set to appear March 26 in Charlottesville General District Court to face misdemeanor charges of obstruction of justice, public intoxication and swearing.
(Additional reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Sharon Bernstein, Eric Walsh and Clarence Fernandez)