Martese Johnson: What Really Happened?

By Ellie Muraca

March 19th, 2015

20 year old African American UVA student Martese Johnson accused Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agents of excessive force after they arrested him for public intoxication in front of a University Avenue bar early Wednesday morning.

After the confrontation with Johnson, eyewitnesses to the scene claimed he was reacting peacefully to the officers. Despite his non-violent response, the officers took Johnson to the ground, striking his head on the pavement outside the bar. The impact led to a profusely bleeding wound; Johnson needed 10 stitches. (video)

ABC officials charged Johnson with public intoxication and obstruction of justice.

Johnson is a third-year at UVA double majoring in Italian and Media Studies. He is the Vice Chair for Community Relations of the Honor Committee, Vice Polemarch of the Eta Sigma Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi, and Chair of the Leadership Development Committee of the Black Student Alliance. He holds no criminal record.

Daniel P. Watkins, Johnson’s attorney, released a statement to the press on Wednesday.

“As evidenced by both his academic and extracurricular achievements, Martese is a smart young man with a bright future,”  Watkins said. “I have spoken with him several times today, and he is absolutely devastated by yesterday’s events. Currently, we are preparing to investigate and defend this matter vigorously. Please keep Martese in your prayers during this difficult time.” (source)

The Black Student Alliance held a rally Wednesday night on UVA Grounds in retaliation towards the brutal arrest. Johnson was able to attend.

Martese Johnson Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia


“I want the remainder of the students up here to be able to share their opinions and share their feelings, so I beg for you guys, regardless of your personal opinions and the way you feel about subjects to please respect everyone here,” Johnson said to the crowd. “We are all a part of one community and we deserve to respect each other, especially in times like this.” (source)

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