UVA Community Gathers in Support of Martese Johnson

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On Tuesday night, 20-year-old University of Virginia student Martese Johnson was brutally arrested. His treatment has sparked outrage around the country, and has led to protests at the university. Moreover, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has called for an investigation into the police officers’ use of force.

Read More: Militarization: Arming the Police Against Against American Citizens

Like many Americans, students at the University of Virginia went out to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Tuesday night. Martese Johnson, a junior double majoring in Media Studies and Italian, was one of them. Johnson was with friends trying to get into the Trinity Irish Pub, when he was stopped by a bouncer guarding the door. At this point, an agent from the Virginia Department of Adult Beverage Control, or ABC, grabbed Johnson and brought him over to a group of other ABC agents. According to eyewitness Bryan Beaubrun, when Johnson asked the agent to let go and backed away, he was grabbed from behind and then wrestled to the ground by multiple agents. In the process, he hit his head on the ground, and sustained injuries that required ten stitches.

After being arrested, Johnson was charged with resisting arrest, obstructing justice without threats of force, and profane swearing or intoxication in public. He was released on bail later the next morning.

After the release of pictures and footage of the aftermath of Johnson’s arrest, many have been protesting the way in which he was treated. McAuliffe has authorized an investigation into the circumstances, and UVA president Teresa Sullivan has put out a statement detailing her concerns. In an email sent to the student body, she stated:

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.

She also stressed, however, that details aren’t yet clear at this time, and encouraged anyone with any information about the arrest to come forward and provide eyewitness testimony.

Last night, hundreds of UVA students, as well as faculty and other members of the community, rallied in support of Johnson, who also attended the march. His face clearly still showed signs of his injury from the night before.

Johnson thanked the community for coming out to support him, saying:

This University opened me up. You being here is the reason why I still believe in the community of trust even with a busted head standing here on this stage.

The gathering featured other students speaking about their personal experiences, expressing dismay about how Johnson was treated, and talk about how to move forward. It’s certainly moving to see the university community standing together to protest the inhumane treatment of one of its own, but the fact that such inhumane treatment happened in the first place remains troubling. It’s yet another example in national conversation about race and discrimination that seems to get more complicated and upsetting every day.

Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at



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