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Students Speak Out on ABC Arrest of UVA Student

Posted: Updated: Apr 02, 2015 01:34 PM
Photo of Johnson's arrest, provided by 'Concerned Black Students' group Photo of Johnson's arrest, provided by 'Concerned Black Students' group
UVA Student Jackson Partin UVA Student Jackson Partin
UVA student Sam Hayward UVA student Sam Hayward
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The fallout from the arrest of a University of Virginia student by the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agents is sending shockwaves across Charlottesville.   Students who saw ABC officers take down 20-year-old UVA third-year student Martese Johnson outside Trinity Irish Pub Wednesday are talking about what turned into a bloody arrest.

ABC agents arrested Johnson outside Trinity Irish Pub early Wednesday morning after he was denied access to the pub. According to Johnson's lawyer, Johnson was taken to the ground, and his head hit the pavement causing him to bleed profusely from a cut on his head. He was taken to UVA Medical Center for treatment and received 10 stitches. Johnson was charged with misdemeanor counts of obstructing justice and profane swearing or intoxication in public. He was released from jail several hours later on a $1,500 bond and is scheduled to have a court hearing March 26.

Video and photos taken during the arrest show Johnson on the ground with a bloodied face. The images spread quickly across social media. Students at the University of Virginia are shaken up about the incident. 

Trinity Irish Pub is a popular bar, and the line was out the door the night of St. Patrick's Day. Some students outside the bar said they were very unsettled by seeing Martese Johnson being held on the ground.

UVA student Jackson Partin was nearby on UVA's Corner getting food, He says he was confused before he heard what happened but that he quickly knew it was something big because of all the ensuing commotion that caught everyone's attention.

"And then one cop went by and I thought ‘OK someone's probably getting arrested, it's St. Patrick's Day.' And then another one and then another one and then fire trucks and ambulances, and it was just kind of weird, so I looked outside and saw kind of a mess going on outside of Trinity."

Another student, Sam Hayward, says there was an atmosphere of collective pain and shock that's still permeating UVA now. "To think it happened here, where everyone is so close and everyone knows each other. You don't really think it's going to happen in your world and then it does. It just creates so much pain for everyone."

On Wednesday UVA students gathered for a massive demonstration that started at the UVA Amphitheater and ended outside the Charlottesville Police Department.  Demonstrators were back out around the university on Thursday; from outside Clark Hall to the Alderman Library, they made their way around chanting the whole time. They would stop from time to time, form a circle and share personal stories.

"We're basically here to amplify the momentum we built last night to more so enlighten and educate others around grounds," said UVA student Michael Scott.

People who know Johnson say he's not the kind of person who would have created this kind of a problem for himself. They describe him as a good man, a good student, and a leader at UVA.  We spoke with several of Johnson's friends who say they were with him at Crozet Pizza minutes before he was arrested near Trinity. They say he was not that intoxicated so they're very surprised by the arrest.

Whether they were with him that night or they found out in the morning, the consensus among many of Martese's friends is the same - they say they're shocked and saddened that such a calm, nice guy could have walked out of the hospital with 10 stitches. 

Chudi Obi, a friend of Johnson's said, "I was shocked, first of all, to see that level of brutality. Just to see the blood streaming down his face. I never thought I'd never see a friend that I know beaten like that."

Obi first met Johnson through the black fraternity community at UVA. Johnson is also a member of the Honor Committee, the IMP Society, and the Black Student Alliance. 

"I'd describe Martese as a calm, cool, quiet individual. He can be fun at times, he's a good person to chill with,” Obi stated. "He's a great guy and the reports that he was just somehow belligerent, I can't really believe that because that's not what I see from him." 

Many students say they hope that the pain can be replaced with positive progress at UVA. They say that no matter what happened the night of Johnson's arrest, having open and respectful discussions about race relations are going to be an important part of UVA's recovery.

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