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Students, community members rally behind UVa. student Martese Johnson after bloody arrest

Posted at 9:33 AM, Mar 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-19 09:40:20-04

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va - The bloody arrest of third-year University of Virginia student Martese Johnson sparked rallies across Virginia Wednesday night. So many students showed up to an event on the University's Charlottesville campus, organizers moved it from a ballroom inside a building to a nearby outdoor Amphitheater.  Some estimated several thousand students, community members and school leaders met to discuss the incident.

"This is an issue for all of UVA!" one speaker shouted over a megaphone.

"His face, to literally be bashed in by concrete, there's no words to describe that," third-year Virginia student Andrew Burrill said.

Johnson, who got 10 stitches to his forehead after being released from jail, attended Wednesday's rally.  He told reporters he could not speak to the media, but in a statement, Johnson's lawyer said he was "devastated" by what happened.

University of Virginia president Teresa Sullivan was also at the rally.  She initially reported the incident to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe's office. McAuliffe then initiated an independent, state-run investigation into the circumstances surrounding the St. Patrick's Day incident.

"I felt it in my stomach," Sullivan said.  "Seeing the blood run down that young man's face; I wanted to know what had happened and why it had happened.   And I have to say, I also thought about his mother."

In Richmond, students from the group Black Action Now marched down Broad Street, at times lying down in the street and chanting, "We have to fight back!"  Group leaders said they believed Johnson was targeted because he is black.

According to Johnson's attorney, the third-year student is a double major in Italian and Media Studies and leads various student groups on campus. He had no criminal record prior to Tuesday.  Johnson was charged with public intoxication and disorderly conduct following Tuesday night's arrest.

In a statement, the Virginia ABC said the agents involved in the incident are on administrative duties during the investigation.  An ABC spokesperson said the agency was fully cooperating with the Virginia State Police investigation.

"The uniformed ABC Agents observed and approached the individual [Johnson] after he was refused entry to a licensed establishment,” spokesperson Kathleen Shaw said in a statement. “A determination was made by the agents to further detain the individual based on their observations and further questioning."

The statement added that the arrested individual sustained injuries during the arrest, and received treatment for those injuries at a local hospital. Johnson said that his head was struck on the pavement when police took him to the ground.

Johnson is scheduled to appear in Charlottesville General District Court March 26 at 10 a.m., according to online court records.