Martese Johnson: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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A photo circulated on Twitter among University of Virginia students shows a bloodied student Martese Johnson after an incident with police that has sparked controversy among students. (Twitter)

University of Virginia students are demanding answers after a black student was bloodied during an encounter with police outside of a Charlottesville bar Tuesday night after he was denied entry to the bar.

Martese Johnson, a junior honor student, was charged with resisting arrest, obstructing justice without threats of force and profane swearing or intoxication in public, according to The Cavalier Daily, UVA’s student newspaper.

But in an email circulated among students signed “Concerned Black Students,” those who witnessed the incident said Johnson did not resist questioning or arrest. He was arrested by Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control agents.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Witnesses Said His Blood Was ‘Splattered’ on the Street

Arrest of Martese Johnson 3/18/15Viewers should be warned that this video contains disturbing images and explicit language. For further coverage of the Martese Johnson incident, please check out Video credit: Bryan Beaubrun Compiled by Porter Dickie2015-03-18T19:54:08.000Z

The above video shows part of the incident.

The email from “Concerned Black Students” described the incident:

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.

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.

Police told the Cavalier Daily that Johnson was “very agitated and belligerent.” A witness, Bryan Beaubrun, told the paper:

Martese was talking to the bouncer and there was some discrepancy about his ID. [An] ABC officer approaches Martese and grabs him by the elbow…and pulls him to the side. It happened so quickly. Out of nowhere I saw the two officers wrestling Martese to the ground. I was shocked that it escalated that quickly. Eventually [he was] on the ground, they’re trying to put handcuffs on him and their knees were on his back.

Johnson is a 20-year-old Italian and Media Studies major from Illinois. He suffered head injuries and received 10 stitches.

According to the Associated Press, Johnson’s attorney, Daniel Watkins said in a statement that Johnson is “absolutely devastated” by the incident. Watkins described Johnson as holding “numerous leadership positions,” at UVa.

“We are preparing to investigate and defend this matter vigorously,” Watkins said.

Johnson is a member of the university’s student government, known as the Honor Committee, and the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, as well as the Black Student Association.

He has no criminal record.

2. Students Marched From Campus to the Police Station to Protest

Students marched from the UVa campus to the police headquarters in protest of the alleged brutality.

Johnson was in attendance.

Police got into confrontations with the protesters, including in one case where a woman was put in a chokehold:

It’s not known if anyone was arrested.

3. The Agents Have Been Put on Restricted Duty

The Trinity Irish Pub is shown March 19, 2015 in Charlottsville, Virginia. Martese Johnson is the black University of Virginia student whose face was bloodied during his arrest on March 18 outside the pub. (Getty)

The Trinity Irish Pub is shown March 19, 2015 in Charlottsville, Virginia. Martese Johnson is the black University of Virginia student whose face was bloodied during his arrest on March 18 outside the pub. (Getty)

The Alcoholic Beverage Control agency released a statement about the incident:

While monitoring licensed establishments on University Avenue in the City of Charlottesville, uniformed Virginia ABC special agents arrested a 20-year-old
male early on the morning of March 18.

The individual was charged with Public Intoxication and Obstruction of Justice in an incident that occurred at approximately 12:45 a.m. on March 18 in the 1500 block of University Avenue. The uniformed ABC agents observed and approached the individual after he was refused entry to a licensed establishment. A determination was made by the agents to further detain the individual based on their observations and further questioning.

In the course of an arrest being made, the arrested individual sustained injuries. The individual received treatment for his injuries at a local hospital and was released.

Governor McAuliffe has requested that Virginia State Police conduct an independent investigation into the circumstances of the arrest, including use of force. Virginia ABC will provide whatever information or assistance is requested by Virginia State Police.

Virginia ABC is restricting the special agents involved in the incident to administrative duties while the investigation is underway.

Charlottesville and University police were also at the scene, according to the newspaper. A university police spokesman told the paper that her department responded after the arrest was made.

A Charlottesville PD spokesman said Johnson was booked at the local jail and released after posting $250 bond.

4. UVa’s President Called the Police Behavior ‘Appalling’

Lights illuminate a building of University of Virginia School of Medicine on March 19, 2015 in Charlottsville, Virginia.  (Getty)

Lights illuminate a building of University of Virginia School of Medicine on March 19, 2015 in Charlottsville, Virginia. (Getty)

In a strongly worded message to the UVa community, the university’s Vice President for Diversity & Equity, Dr. Marcus Martin, and Dean of African-American Affairs Maurice Apprey, criticized the actions by police:

We are outraged by the brutality against a University of Virginia undergraduate student that occurred in the early hours Wednesday, March 18, 2015. This African American male student was injured on the Corner, after being stopped by Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) officers. His head was slammed into the hard pavement with 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.

This incident is now being handled at the highest level of the University and the State of Virginia. We have spoken with student leaders and are sensitive to the collective remorse and reactions of the University and community. We are asking everyone to exercise sound judgment and discretion, as we seek to protect the student’s rights and privacy. The Office for Diversity and Equity and the Office of African-American Affairs (OAAA) are available to provide support. This evening, the Office of African-American Affairs (OAAA) will be open until 8:00 pm to provide support. As we wait to learn more about what happened last night, please know you can call us to talk about this situation and your concerns.

Violence against an individual, no matter the color of his or her skin, gender, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation, is inexcusable and appalling. If you are the victim of bias, racism, hazing, or sexual misconduct please report the incident to the Just Report It system. Our students have the right to a safe environment in which to obtain their education. We are deeply concerned about the safety of all students, faculty, staff, and community members.

University President Teresa Sullivan has requested a state investigation from Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

She also issued a message to the university community:

I write to express my deep concern about an incident that occurred on The Corner early this morning and to provide information about immediate steps that I have taken in response.

At about 12:45 a.m., one of our students was injured while Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agents were attempting to take him into custody on the sidewalk in front of Trinity Irish Pub. University Police and Charlottesville Police arrived on the scene shortly after the incident occurred. We have not yet clarified all of the details surrounding this event, but we are seeking to do so as quickly as possible.

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. 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.

As the investigation unfolds, eyewitnesses will play an essential role in shedding light on the details of this incident. I urge students and other members of our community who witnessed the incident or have other direct knowledge of it to come forward. Please contact the Virginia State Police at 1-877-482-8477 or immediately.

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.

McAulliffe’s office said in a statement that the governor is “concerned” about the incident, according to CBS 6 TV. His spokesman, Brian Coy, said:

The Governor’s office has been in contact with University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan and local law enforcement and will continue to monitor this situation closely as the investigation proceed.

In the email from “Concerned Black Students,” they said:

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.

5. Virginia Paid a UVa Student $212,500 After Her Wrongful Arrest by ABC Agents


Elizabeth Daly sued the state after she was arrested at gunpoint by Alcholic Beverage Control agents outside a Charlottesville store. The agents mistakenly thought the sparkling water she had purchased with friends was alcohol.

About six plainclothes agents, who did not clearly identify themselves as law enforcement against agency policy, surrounded her vehicle and flashed badges Daly said she didn’t recognize. She tried to leave the parking lot and one of the agents ended up on the hood of her SUV. One agent pointed a gun at her and another tried breaking one of the SUV’s windows. She was arrested and charged with felony assault of law enforcement officers and eluding policy. She spent about half a day in jail. The charges were later dropped and her record expunged.

Last year Daly settled a lawsuit with the state for $212,500, according to WVIR-TV.