Bloody arrest of black Virginia student spurs second day of protests

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 20, 2015 7:03 PM

By Gary Robertson

RICHMOND, Va. (Reuters) - The bloody arrest of an African-American student from the University of Virginia spurred a second day of protests on Friday with the same slogans used in demonstrations against law enforcement's treatment of minority groups in other states.

Martese Johnson, 20, was arrested on Wednesday and in video and photos on social media can be seen bleeding and lying on a sidewalk after a confrontation with state Alcohol Beverage Control agents outside a Charlottesville tavern.

The head of Virginia ABC, Brian Moran, met with about 350 students on campus on Friday but 200 black students stormed out, saying their questions were not being answered, local media said.

Video showed them marching outside and chanting “Black Lives Matter,” a slogan popularized during recent protests against the killing of unarmed black men by white police officers in Missouri, New York and other places.

African-American legislators in Virginia on Friday criticized the arrest.

“These actions by the ABC officers are appalling and totally unacceptable,” the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus said in a statement.

On Thursday, Donald McEachin, an African-American who chairs the state Senate’s Democratic caucus, said the legislature should remove the arrest powers of ABC agents. That same day Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe ordered the state police to investigate.

“So the question becomes, 'Why is this young man prostrate on a Charlottesville sidewalk beaten like a dog?'" McEachin said on Thursday.

The video shows Johnson being held down by what appear to be three white officers.

"His head is bleeding," a voice yells.   

Earlier in the day, Black Dot, a black rights student advocacy group at the university, posted a comment on the university’s website about Johnson’s arrest saying, “We must put an end to this Jeffersonian tradition of racial injustice.”

Thomas Jefferson, a founding father of the United States, also was the founder of the University of Virginia, and a slave owner.

“No longer will we accept complacency with the status quo. We will not allow for the university to continue to operate under the erroneous presumption that race is no longer an issue,” the student advocacy group said in its posting.

Johnson is scheduled to appear in court next week on two misdemeanor charges related to his arrest.

(Reporting by Gary Robertson; Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Shumaker)