CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — In a show of solidarity, supporters crowded into a courtroom Thursday as a University of Virginia student made his first court appearance after a bloody arrest outside a bar that sparked a police investigation.
The case against Martese Johnson was continued until May 28 so state police can finish their criminal investigation of the March 18 arrest by state Alcoholic Beverage Control police.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe ordered the investigation after images and recordings of Johnson’s arrest, his faced bloodied, spread swiftly on social media. Johnson is African American and has called the police racist.
Johnson, 20, of Chicago, was expected to plead not guilty Thursday to charges of public intoxication and obstruction of justice, but his attorney asked for the delay in the General District Court proceeding.
More than 100 students and friends, all dressed in black, filled the seats and lined the back of the courtroom. Johnson, in a black suit and black-and-white pinstriped shirt, glanced around the room at his supporters. A scab and several discolored blotches of skin were still evident on his forehead.
A supporter explained that the black attire of students and friends was symbolic of “solidarity and unity” with Johnson.
“And we decided to continue with that feeling of solidarity,” said Vendarryl Jenkins, president of the U.Va. student chapter of the NAACP.
Miles Braxton, a friend of Johnson’s and a first-year student at U.Va., said it was important for the students to attend Johnson’s first court hearing.
“It really shows that we all have Martese’s back,” Braxton said. “We’re all here to support him. He’s keeping his head high and regaining his confidence.”
In addition to the state police investigation, McAuliffe on Wednesday ordered state liquor agents retrained. The executive order requires Virginia’s approximately 130 ABC agents to complete additional training on the use of force, cultural diversity, community policing and interaction with youth by Sept. 1.
The Johnson arrest came two years after another U.Va. student was arrested by agents who mistook a carton of sparkling water for beer.
On Wednesday night, the U.Va. Student Council passed a resolution calling for an end to ABC agents enforcing the laws. The proposal calls for agents to be stripped of their law enforcement powers, asks the General Assembly to change the state code regarding ABC arrest powers and requires monthly communication between students and police.
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