(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) — A group of black students walked out of a University of Virginia student meeting in protest Friday afternoon, claiming they were left out of the planning of the event that stemmed from the bloody arrest this week of fellow African-American student Martese Johnson.
Johnson, who was in attendance, also left after the group dominated the first part of the sometimes contentious meeting with their questions for panelists, including the Charlottesville police chief, the state’s secretary of public safety, which oversees state alcohol control agents, and UVA police. An overflow room contained more attendees.
The meeting came one day after the Johnson’s roommate spoke out on his behalf. Johnson, a third-year student, was bloodied during an arrest near the campus Wednesday after he was approached by state alcohol control agents near a bar. The roommate told ABC News he believes the use of force was likely race-related, and that his friend was using his actual ID while trying to enter a bar on the night of the incident.
“There is nothing he could’ve said or done that could provoke an officer of the law to assault him in such a manner,” Joshua Kinlaw told ABC News. Johnson was charged with resisting arrest, obstructing justice without threats of force, and profane swearing or intoxication in public.
“I am aware that Martese does not own a fake ID,” Kinlaw said. “So the ID that he actually showed to both the bouncer and to the ABC [Alcoholic Beverage Control] officers was his real ID. Now because the age on that ID shows him to be 20 years old, I think that’s when dispute and discrepancies came in,” Kinlaw said.
As for Johnson, he said Thursday through his lawyer that he was “shocked that my face was slammed into the brick pavement three blocks from where I attend school,” as his attorney vowed to fight the charges. He was arrested early Wednesday morning outside the Charlottesville bar by state Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agents who are charged with enforcing alcohol laws in Virginia.
“I trust that the scars on my face and head will heal but the trauma from what the ABC officers did will stay with me forever,” Johnson, a third-year student, said through his attorney, Daniel Watkins.
Friday’s on-campus meeting, set up by the student council and local and state officials, was titled “A Conversation with Law Enforcement.” Members of the black community at UVA said they were angry that they were excluded from the planning of the event by the student council. A group of black students quickly dominated the first part of this event with their questions.
Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo acknowledged this has been a hard year for everyone in the university community, noting that the school has been put on the national stage three times in the last seven months. “What happened this past week has shaken your trust. It is my responsibility as the police chief to regain your trust. I commit to you today to do that,” Longo said.
But often when he and other speakers were asked a question, students standing in the aisle said together: “Answer the question we asked” with their fists in the air.
The student protesters brought up an incident that happened Wednesday evening, where a University of Virginia police officer allegedly arrested a student in a chokehold. Captain Mike Coleman with the UVA PD said that situation is currently under review.
About 100 of the student protesters walked out of the meeting chanting, “Black lives matter.” The meeting continued for about 40 minutes afterwards, though most people had already left.
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