VCU students rally, die in on Broad St., in solidarity with Martese Johnson [VIDEO]

by | Mar 19, 2015 | RICHMOND POLITICS

Virginia Commonwealth University students rallied in the heart of Richmond on Wednesday in solidarity with Martese Johnson, a black University of Virginia student who was injured when ABC agents arres

Virginia Commonwealth University students rallied in the heart of Richmond on Wednesday in solidarity with Martese Johnson, a black University of Virginia student who was injured when ABC agents arrested him outside a pub in Charlottesville.

Richmond’s Black Action Now organized a local march, as well as prior #blacklivesmatter demonstrations in the city over the past six months.

Martese Johnson Solidarity March at VCU from Craig Zirpolo on Vimeo.

“On a personal level it could easily happen to me, but more so I’m exasperated because this keeps happening,” said Chris Kindred, a senior communication arts major from VCU who attended last night’s protest. “I know it’s going to keep happening unless we stand up so I’m going to be out here.”

About 50 VCU Students marched around campus, staged a die-in at Harrison and Broad, and chanted in protest against racism and police brutality while a similar march organized by UVa students occurred in Charlottesville.

“We’re dying every day,” said VCU junior psychology student Shayla Sanders. “Your Greek letters aren’t going to save you. Your degree will not save you. Nothing will save you. Your blackness is still a crime.”

Johnson, a 20 year-old junior and member of the UVa Honor Committee and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, was charged with misdemeanor obstruction of justice without force and public swearing/intoxication.

During his arrest, around 12:45 am Wednesday morning, Johnson sustained a head injury after an altercation with ABC agents. He was later taken to a hospital and received ten stitches.

Photos and videos taken by bystanders during the arrest and shared online have reignited debate about race and police violence with supporters using the hashtag #justice4martese.

“How did this happen,” Johnson said in the video as officers pinned him to the ground

and handcuffed him. “I go to UVA, you fucking racists.”

ABC agents on patrol for St. Patrick’s Day approached Johnson after a bouncer turned him away at the door of Trinity Irish Pub on University Avenue.

“A determination was made by the agents to further detain the individual based on their observations and further questioning,” according to an ABC statement.

A Facebook note signed “Concerned Black Students” posted on the UVA Black Student Alliance’s Facebook page said that Johnson was “flung to the ground” with “brutish force” by ABC agents. 

The post also said that students were forced to leave “and some were even handcuffed and threatened with possible arrest if they did not leave the scene” after Johnson was arrested.

“We have marched and shouted that we are Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, but the proximity of this morning’s brutality to a member of our community has deepened that wound,” the post said.

“His treatment was unprovoked as he did not resist questioning or arrest. In confusion, with blood painting his face and creating a pool on the bricks of the corner, he yelled out for mercy.”

Governor Terry McAuliffe requested an independent state police investigation into the use of force. The agents involved were placed on administrative duties during the investigation, according an ABC press release. 

Johnson was released on a $1,500 unsecured bond at about 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday. A court hearing is set for March 26.

Craig Zirpolo

Craig Zirpolo

Craig Zirpolo (they/them) is a journalist, photographer and videographer from Richmond, Va. In addition to contributing to RVA Mag, they also work with Dust Up, Good Day RVA, RVA Track, The Broadberry, Gallery5 and Art 180.

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