Tuesday night, a black University of Virginia student was beaten by an Alcoholic Beverage Control agent outside of Trinity Irish Pub in Charlottesville, Virginia. The student, 20 year old junior Martese Johnson, was thrown to the ground by officers after being turned away from the drinking establishment for alleged use of a fake I.D.
An email to the university community signed “Concerned Black Students” describes Martese’s treatment in these terms:
“After Martese was denied entry to the bar, he found himself suddenly flung to the ground. The brutish force used resulted in his head and bodily injuries. 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. Though he lay bleeding and crying out, officers continued to hold him to the pavement, pinning him down, twisting his arm, with knees to his back until he was handcuffed.
As students pleaded with officers to lift Martese from the ground they were pushed away, and some were even handcuffed and threatened with possible arrest if they did not leave the scene.”
Over a thousand outraged UVA students demonstrated wednesday night against the Martese’s brutalization, which is the latest in a string of highly publicized instances of police violence against persons of color since the killing of Mike Brown last August. Martese spoke briefly at the rally; according to the AP he “kept touching his face” where ten stitches held together the skin which had been split open the previous night.
YDS stands in solidarity with Martese and the UVA student body as they demand justice. The arrest of Martese by police highlights the way in which laws are selectively enforced; as many white underaged students can testify, run-ins with police while downtown rarely involve arrest, certainly not when one is sober and cooperative. That Martese was then thrown to the ground and beaten for no justifiable cause points to the racism inherent in US police departments.
YDS calls for the drinking age to be lowered to 18, and for the legalization of marijuana and of other drugs which are used to criminalize people of color. We demand the disbandment of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Agency as well as similar police agencies which enforce needless bureaucratic controls on substances through the use of force (this includes, for example, the Drug Enforcement Agency). It is time for a massive overhaul in the US policing system, in order to bring the activities of police agencies in line with their motto, “to protect and serve,” and to ensure all police authorities are directly accountable to the communities they protect.
We are frustrated that more than a day after the beating, the only news outlets which have publicized the story are second-rate news sites regurgitating the AP wire release in full. Shame on the New York Times and other “top newspapers,” and on CNN and other cable news networks for burying the story deep in their website, if they choose to cover it at all.