CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WRIC) — A massive group of supporters gathered on the campus of the University of Virginia Wednesday night to rally for Martese Johnson, the third-year UVA student at the center of recent claims of police brutality.
- Photos: Martese Johnson Arrest
Organizers originally planned to hold the rally indoors, but the crowd grew so big they had to hold it outside. Students from as far away as Virginia Tech showed up to support Johnson.
Martese Johnson attended the event, his face visibly bruised.
The 20-year-old had this to say to the crowd gathered at the campus amphitheater during the rally:
“I beg for you guys — regardless of your personal opinions and the way you feel about subjects — to please respect everyone here. We’re all part of one community and we deserve to respect each other, especially at times like this.”
University President Teresa Sullivan was also there, telling students she was upset by what she saw in the video.
“I hate seeing anything bad happening to any of my students, whether it happened on the football field or in a case like this my heart went out to him,” Sullivan said. “I thought how I would feel if I were his mother.’”
Many at the rally on Wednesday also told 8News that they are disturbed by the incident.
“We are spending millions of dollars on that security and we all saw those pictures,” a demonstrator said. “Martese was not safe and it does bring the question up: who are those people there meant to protect?”
Johnson is seen in a video from Tuesday night on the ground with several police officers trying to arrest him. Blood can be seen dripping from his face. Later, a booking photo of Johnson turned up. He was charged with obstruction of justice without force and public swearing or intoxication.
Governor Terry McAuliffe joined many social media users who reacted with ‘concern’ about the arrest of Johnson by ABC agents outside a Charlottesville pub. McAuliffe called for an independent investigation by Virginia State Police into the use of force used during Johnson’s arrest.
Attorney General Mark Herring also released a statement, praising McAuliffe for his “swift decision” to request an investigation.
A statement released by Virginia ABC stated that, “‘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.”
Csai Hill, a friend of Johnson, said that what he’s seen and heard about the arrest has been unsettling.
“He’s a good friend and I was very upset about what happened,” Hill said. “I wanted to see what the school was going to say about it and also just to show love and support.”
Johnson is one of 27 students on the university’s Honor Committee. He serves on the committee’s executive board. According to UVA, the Honor Committee “conducts honor investigations and trials,” disseminates information about the code to students and faculty and creates programs and policies to maintain the code.
An attorney for Johnson released a statement Wednesday that read in part, “I have spoken with him several times today, and he is absolutely devastated by yesterday’s events.”
There’s been no word yet if any other rallies are planned on campus.