UVA students demand answers from police agencies, march out of public forum

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WRIC) — More than 500 students at the University of Virginia held a public forum Friday afternoon, demanding answers from several police agencies following the bloody arrest of third-year student Martese Johnson.

The forum started at 1 p.m. in the Newcomb Theater on UVA’s campus.

It was UVA students who organized the forum to have a discussion with law enforcement. ABC agents, UVA Police, Charlottesville and Albemarle County law enforcement agencies all attended.

Students were ushered into overflow rooms once the theater reached capacity. Soon after, the livestream of the forum stopped working in the overflow rooms and temporarily paused the meeting.

Students began to vocalize their frustration with the technical glitch; the meeting got back on track soon afterwards.

Once the meeting resumed, panelists from the police agencies began fielding questions from students. When asked if he thought the training of ABC agents was adequate, a representative of the agency replied that he couldn’t answer as a yes/no question. He went on to say that the training ABC officers receive is similar to police officer training.

Around 2:30, a group of students began chanting “Black lives matter,” and marched out of the meeting. They walked to the African American affairs building on campus, shouting “No justice, no peace. No racist police.”

Along with hundreds of others at UVA, Joshua Kinlaw, Johnson’s roomate, spoke out in support of Martese. Kinlaw says that the claims that Johnson tried to present a fake ID on the night of his arrest is just not true.

“I am aware that Martese does not own a fake ID. So the ID that he actually showed to both the bouncer and to the ABC officers was his real ID. Now because the age on that ID shows him to be 20-years-old, I think that’s when dispute and discrepancies came in.

Meanwhile, Martese Johnson and his attorney, Daniel Watkins, are vowing to fight the criminal charges Johnson is facing.

The 20-year-old’s arrest by Alcoholic Beverage Control agents was caught on video that’s sparked a nationwide outrage, which prompted Governor Terry McAuliffe to open an independent investigation into the case.

Thursday was the first time Johnson broke his silence about the incident in a statement he wrote read by his attorney.

Johnson was arrested by Alcoholic Beverage Control agents after he was rejected entry from a bar on University Avenue, authorities said. Watkins said that Johnson showed a valid ID, but recited a different zip code. He went on to say that was the moment ABC agents stepped in and started questioning Johnson.

After the agents approached Johnson, “a determination was made” to arrest him — during which time “the arrested individual sustained injuries,” according to the ABC agency.

“The conversation resulted in my client being thrown to the ground, his head hitting the pavement, the officers knee pressed into his back, his face and skull beading and needing surgery,” Watkins said at Thursday’s press conference.

Johnson and his attorney have met with investigators and UVA President Teresa Sullivan. Virginia State Police have now launched an investigation.

We’ll be there. Stay with 8News for continuing coverage of this developing story.

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