UVA Student Traumatized but 'Unbowed' After Arrest that Left Him Bloodied

Martese Johnson, the young student who suffered a bloody head wound as he was being arrested by alcohol control officers near the University of Virginia on Wednesday, stood beside his mother and his lawyer on Thursday night and issued a statement saying he was “unbowed”, his face clearly showing the injuries he had sustained.

Another cut was visible under his left eye.

Johnson, 20, was arrested near the Charlottesville campus of UVA, where he is a third-year undergraduate, in the early hours of Wednesday morning in an encounter with enforcement agents from the state alcohol beverage control (ABC) department.

Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe requested a state investigation, which is now underway, and said on Thursday: “We are going to get to the bottom of this and someone is going to have to answer for it.”

Johnson’s attorney Daniel Watkins said on Thursday evening that he plans to to fight charges against the student of obstructing justice and public drunkenness “with the utmost vigor”.

Watkins said Johnson had talked with agents outside a bar after questions arose about his ID.

“The conversation resulted in my client being thrown to the ground,” he said.

A cellphone video of Johnson being pinned to the ground by three white officers while he yells that he attends the university and that they are racists – all the while bleeding profusely over his face and onto the ground – has gone viral.


Watkins read a statement Johnson had written.

“I trust that the scars on my face and head will one day heal, but the trauma of what the ABC officers did will stay with me forever,” the statement said. Johnson had earlier added in a statement that as he was on the ground, his bloodied head was down, but he was “unbowed”.

Johnson walked away after his statement was delivered, flanked by his lawyer and with his arm around his mother, who had flown in from the family’s hometown of Chicago to be with her son after the incident.

Johnson reportedly showed an Illinois identification card at a bar he was trying to enter around midnight on Tuesday. When ABC officers sought to check whether the ID was genuine, and asked Johnson for his zip code, he gave his mother’s current zip code in Chicago, which was different from the zip code listed on his 2011 identity card, his lawyer said.

“As we prepare them to be citizens in the democracy, they can speak freely, they can talk about what they’re thinking and feeling, they can discuss those issues with one another – that’s part of what makes America great. If it takes the form of protest, then it is still free speech,” said Sullivan.

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