On Wednesday evening, University of Virginia students gathered to protest the beating and arrest of third-year student Martese Johnson, 20, who was accosted by Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control officers in what many witnesses call an unprovoked attack after Johnson was denied entry to a bar.
UVA students marched through the streets of Charlottesville chanting, “Shut it down” and “Black lives matter,” NBC 12 reports.
According to the news station, protesters used the rally as a cathartic experience for those affected by the event to share their thoughts. Johnson spoke briefly to the crowd, urging those in attendance to be respectful of one another’s opinions.
“I beg for you guys, regardless of your personal opinions and the way you feel about subjects, to please respect everyone up here; we’re all part of one community,” Johnson said, the news station reports. “And we deserve to respect each other, especially in times like this. Thank you.”
According to several news reports, Johnson, 20, an honors student at the school, was denied entry to Trinity Bar early Wednesday morning for reportedly using a fake ID. After Johnson was denied entry, several witnesses report that he was walking away from the establishment when two ABC officers approached him to arrest him.
Cellphone video taken of the incident shows Johnson on the ground facedown. Someone can be heard yelling, “His head is bleeding!” Johnson, whose face is shown covered in blood, shouts, “I go to UVA!”
Brinaka Scott, a friend of Johnson’s, told the news station that the she witnessed the beating and says she watched Johnson get arrested outside the bar. “We were all just shocked because it was Martese. He is not a forceful person. He’s not violent at all,” Scott told NBC 12.
UVA President Teresa Sullivan wants anyone with knowledge of what happened that morning to come forward. She noted in a statement that witnesses will play a crucial role in determining exactly what happened. “We stand unified in our commitment to seeking the truth about this incident,” Sullivan said in the statement, according to NBC 12.
Read more at NBC 12.