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University community responds to Martese Johnson arrest

Black Dot organizes rallies, marches, administrators join conversation

The response from University students and administration following the arrest of third-year College student Martese Johnson on the Corner early Wednesday morning has been swift. After hundreds of students, faculty and community members attended a rally organized by Black Dot Wednesday night, another rally took place outside Minor Hall Thursday afternoon.

Starting at Minor Hall, students marched around Grounds chanting, “No justice, no peace, no racist police” and “black lives matter.”

Marcus L. Martin, vice president and chief officer for diversity and equity, and Maurice Apprey, dean of the Office of African American Affairs, were among the faculty who responded to the incident. Both faculty members expressed outrage and shock concerning the brutality of the incident in an email statement.

“His head was slammed into the hard pavement with excessive force,” the statement said. “The student required medical evaluation and treatment at the U.Va. Hospital Emergency Department. This was wrong and should not have occurred. In the many years of our medical, professional and leadership roles at the University, we view the nature of this assault as highly unusual and appalling based on the information we have received.”

Martin, who served as the chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine, said the response was largely based on the experiences he had while serving as chairman and on what students recalled of the incident.

Fourth-year College student Assa Diaw said she was pleased with the student turnout Thursday, comprised of about 100 to 150 students.

“I’m very happy with student response,” Diaw said. “I’ve seen so many people coming [to rallies.]”

However, Diaw said she was disappointed because “it [took] a fellow student getting hurt for so many people to come out.”

Third-year College student Mary Topp said the student response “speaks to how many lives Martese has touched.”

Student Council President Jalen Ross, a fourth-year Engineering student, and President-Elect Abraham Axler, a second-year College student, sent out a joint email Thursday morning announcing a dialogue would take place between students, University Police, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo, representatives from the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control and Albemarle County police Friday at 1 p.m. in Newcomb Theater. They encouraged students to tweet questions and concerns beforehand.

Following the rally outside Minor Hall, students also debuted the hashtag #BlackUVaDemands.

Ross and Axler also invited students to a “group healing session” hosted by the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services at 5 p.m. Thursday evening in the Newcomb South Meeting Room.

“We need to consider the role that each of us can play in combating inequality in our community,” they said in the email.

Martin and Apprey encouraged students to report incidents of bias, racism, hazing or sexual misconduct to the Just Report It system.

“Violence against an individual, no matter the color of his or her skin, gender, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation, is inexcusable and appalling,” Martin and Apprey said in the statement..