UVA council to host dialogue with police on controversial arrest – CNN
(CNN)University of Virginia student leaders have scheduled a campus forum with police Friday to discuss allegations of brutality following the bloody arrest of a 20-year-old student that prompted protests at UVA.
The incident early Wednesday involved uniformed alcohol control agents and Martese Johnson, an African-American student at UVA. It made headlines around the country and prompted Gov. Terry McAuliffe to order an independent Virginia State Police investigation into what happened.
The on-campus forum is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday.
In a Facebook post, the university’s Student Council said representatives from Charlottesville, Virginia, police, Albemarle County police and the state Alcohol Beverage Control were to attend the forum “to engage in a conversation about their relationship with students, or lack thereof, and about the issue of police brutality.”
Johnson’s arrest prompted protests among students demanding “Justice for Martese” after images circulated showing his bloodied face and clothing.
While what happened Wednesday remains under investigation, video from the incident shows Johnson pinned to the ground, screaming: “I go to UVA! … You f****** racists! What the f***? How did this happen?” An officer can be heard telling the man to stop fighting.
According to the student’s attorney, Daniel Watkins, “just before handcuffing him, police took Martese to the ground, striking his head on the pavement and causing him to bleed profusely from the gash on his head.”
He needed 10 stitches to close the gash in his head, Watkins said.
Johnson was charged with public intoxication and obstruction of justice, according to the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which acknowledged he suffered injuries during his arrest. The agents were placed on administrative duties during the investigation, the agency said.
The Black Student Alliance said the arrest reminds black UVA students “of the gruesome reality that we are not immune to injustice.” In a news release, the university called the arrest disturbing, and University President Teresa Sullivan issued a statement saying that “every member of our community should feel safe from the threat of bodily harm and other forms of violence.”
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring appealed for patience.
“Certainly the images that we’ve all been looking at in Charlottesville are shocking, but it’s really important that we get the facts out and understand exactly what happened,” Johnson said.
Friday’s forum will be held at a theater on the UVA campus. The Student Council said media would not be allowed to ask questions or bring cameras into the forum but said the event would be live-streamed on the Internet.
“This is a student space — a chance for students to ask the questions they feel are most pressing to Virginia’s most senior law enforcement officials,” the group said on Facebook.
Students leaders asked their contemporaries to tweet questions in advance. As of midmorning Friday, only a handful of tweets had crossed using the proposed hashtag “#policedialogue.“
“Is the problematic influence of implicit bias discussed at all during police training,” Twitter user yaejmeister asked.
Among other questions, one student asked why alcohol control agents have police powers.
A third wondered “is catering to UVa’s hypersensitivity preparing our students for the world outside of ‘grounds’?”
The incident comes amid a continuing nationwide debate over the use of force by police, particularly involving African-Americans, following the deaths last summer of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York.
Grand juries in both communities declined to indict white police officers in the deaths, leading to angry protests nationwide and calls for renewed attention to claims of police bullying and brutality.