Black UVA student arrest, injuries spark police brutality discussions

Viral video, photos show Honor Committee member bleeding from his face

A black University of Virginia (UVA) student suffered a head injury while being arrested by police officers early Wednesday morning outside a local pub.

Photos and video of the incident—which went viral—show Martese Johnson, 20, on the ground bleeding from the face as an officer from the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) detains him. In the video, he can be heard repeating, "I go to UVA," "How did this happen?" and "racists." What occurred before the video is unclear,  although witnesses have said that Johnson had "some discrepancy with his ID," the Cavalier Daily reports.

Following his arrest, Johnson received 10 stitches at University of Virginia Medical Center.

He was charged with misdemeanor obstruction of justice without force and with public swearing or intoxication. Later, he was released on an unsecured bond, and a court hearing was set for March 26.

Johnson, a double major in Italian and Media Studies, serves on the school's Honor Committee, is VP of his fraternity, the local Kappa Alpha Psi chapter, and is the leadership development chair of the UVA Black Student Alliance.

As images and video from the event spread, Johnson's name quickly became a hashtag linked with "#BlackLivesMatter" and national issues of race. Wednesday evening, hundreds of students rallied on UVA's campus and marched through town to police headquarters.

New guidelines: Listen, don't arrest, during student protests

On Wednesday, Virginia's ABC released a statement saying uniformed agents approached a student who was denied entry to an establishment and determined to "further detain the individual based on their observations... In the course of an arrest being made, the arrested individual sustained injuries." University and Charlottesville police also responded to the scene.

 UVA President Teresa Sullivan released a letter on Wednesday, saying that she met with police chiefs and asked the governor to investigate the events. She also encouraged witnesses to contact state police.

"Today, as UVA 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," she says.

The same day, Gov. Terry McAuliffe ordered an independent state police probe into the arrest.

In a statement, Marcus Martin, UVA's VP of diversity, and Maurice Apprey, dean of African American affairs, condemned the events. "This was wrong and should not have occurred," they wrote. "In the many years of our medical, professional and leadership roles at the university, we view the nature of this assault as highly unusual and appalling based on the information we have received" (Daily Progress, 3/18; Shapiro/Svrluga, Washington Post, 3/18; Shapiro, Svrluga, Washington Post, 3/19; Pearce, Los Angeles Times, 3/18; Smith, NBC News, 3/19).

The takeaway: The governor of Virginia called for an investigation into the arrest and injuries of a black University of Virginia student after images and video of the event went viral.

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