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UVA Protests in Support of Martese Johnson

Video of Johnson shows him bleeding as cops pinned him to the ground.

Students at the University of Virginia staged a march to the police department last night to decry the actions of law enforcement agents who were videotaped arresting an injured and bloodied UVA student. It’s an extremely difficult video to watch, although the image of white cops ganging up on unarmed black men is not an unfamiliar one. The cops, who work for the Alcohol Beverage Control Bureau, are seen cuffing the student, 20-year old Martese Johnson, his face bloodied as he cries out emphatically, “I go to UVA, I go to UVA. How did this happen, you fucking racists?”


The cops claim they were arresting Johnson for a fake I.D., which he was using to gain entry into a local bar. A letter issued by black UVA students to the UVA community alleges that Johnson suffered a head injury when cops “flung” Johnson to the ground with “brutish force.”

“Though he lay bleeding and crying out, officers continued to hold him to the pavement, pinning him down, twisting his arm, with knees to his back until he was handcuffed,” they wrote. “As students pleaded with officers to lift Martese from the ground they were pushed away, and some were even handcuffed and threatened with possible arrest if they did not leave the scene.”

Police charged Johnson with “resisting arrest, obstructing justice without threats of force, and profane swearing or intoxication in public,” according to the Cavalier Daily. The state is conducting an investigation into the circumstances and conditions of Johnson’s arrest at the request of UVA president Teresa Sullivan.

Image via YouTube video screencap.

At the rally on Wednesday, Johnson made an appearance, the injury on his head clearly visible. Despite the high tensions and fierce emotions, Johnson kept a cool head as he spoke to the crowd.

“We’re all part of one community and we deserve to respect each other, especially at times like this,” he said to a supportive crowd.

Supporters of Johnson have been quick to laud his academic achievements—he’s a member of the Honor Committee and Kappa Alpha Psi, a black fraternity and he has a leadership position with the Black Student Association. History has branded black men with the mark of criminality, and their humanity is not a fact but a question we answer with the merits of their character and an enumeration of their respectable achievements. But we don’t need to know what his GPA is to understand that they way he was treated by those cops was unacceptable and that he was the victim to a cruel injustice. It’s pretty clear from the video, although recent events have shown us that sometimes even video evidence isn’t enough to indict a bad cop.

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