Two University of Virginia officials say that they are “outraged by the brutality” that a black undergraduate faced early Wednesday morning while out with friends.
University of Virginia junior Martese Johnson was celebrating St. Patrick’s Day at a bar when he was allegedly thrown to the ground by officers from the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, his “head slammed into the hard pavement,” according to a statement by Dr. Marcus Martin, the vice president for diversity and equity at UVA, as well as Maurice Apprey, the dean of African-American affairs.
They decried the incident, calling out the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control for its use of “excessive force.”
“The student required medical evaluation and treatment at the UVa Hospital Emergency Department. This was wrong and should not have occurred. 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,” the officials wrote in a blistering message to UVA faculty, staff and students.
“Violence against an individual, no matter the color of his or her skin, gender, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation, is inexcusable and appalling,” they added in the joint letter.
University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan sent out a message to students Wednesday afternoon, expressing her concern about the incident:
“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,” Sullivan wrote. “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.
“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,” the president continued.
Johnson could be heard screaming that he was a student at UVA in a video of the incident.
A letter detailing the incident was also sent out by a group of concerned black students. Johnson never attempted to resist the officers in any way, according to the students, even as the officers continued to beat down on him, according to their letter. A graphic photo of the bloodied junior is currently making the rounds on social media.
Here is the letter from those students:
This morning Martese Johnson emerged with a head injury requiring 10 stitches. He was brutalized by Virginia ABC law enforcement outside of Trinity Irish Pub. His face was bloodied. His body was bruised. Outside of the doors of Trinity Irish Pub, a mass of University students bore witness to the officer’s animalistic, insensitive, and brute handling of Martese. He was left with his blood splattered on the pavement of University Avenue.
Today, we are reminded of the gruesome reality that we are not immune to injustice; as University students, we are not impervious to the brutality that has reeled on news cycles around the country. We have marched and shouted that we are Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, but the proximity of this morning’s brutality to a member of our community has deepened that wound. It is no longer happening only on national television—it is a reality here and now at the University of Virginia that we must face as a collective.
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. In confusion, with blood painting his face and creating a pool on the bricks of the corner, he yelled out for mercy. 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.
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.
We demand there be a swift and thorough investigation on the state, local, and University levels. We have seen what happens at the University when we allow problems we have long known exist to be handled quietly, so we will not be quiet. We demand noise from each other, noise from professors, noise from administrators. Martese, like any other student at this university, like any other person in this country and in this world, deserves more than our uproar: he deserves follow through and intentional action.
Look forward to a follow up email regarding further plans and actions.
Concerned Black Students
Charlottesville, Va., police were called in afterward to help with the disorder, but none of their officers were involved in the initial incident, Capt. Wendy Lewis of the Charlottesville Police Department told The Root.
The Cavalier Daily noted that Johnson was arrested for resisting arrest, obstructing justice without threats of force, and profane swearing or intoxication in public. The UVA student was held in jail overnight, according to Jezebel.
The Root has learned that a protest is being organized in Charlottesville starting at 8 p.m. Wednesday, with a planned march from the campus rotunda to the CPD.
A tweet from Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s account said that the governor had requested an independent Virginia State Police investigation into the matter.