Martese Johnson, UVA Student Beaten by Police, Files Lawsuit Against State Agency 


Martese Johnson, the 21-year-old University of Virginia student who was beaten and arrested by agents from the state’s state Alcoholic and Beverage Control (ABC) agency, filed a $3 million lawsuit against the agency. Johnson filed the suit in a Charlottesville court on Tuesday. In the complaint, he alleges that three officers from the agency of unlawfully detained him and used excessive force.

In March, video of Johnson’s violent arrest went viral, leading to protests from students and members of the university community. The video, which begins with Johnson already on the ground, clearly shows ABC agents pinning him down while he screams “I go to UVA! I go to UVA! You fucking racists! How did this happen?!?” The agents suspected Johnson of having a fake ID, though the ID was, in fact, not fake.

Johnson was later taken away, his head bleeding and legs shackled. The charges against him were later dropped. Photos showing his arrest and the extent of his injuries circulated on social media:

The Guardian reports that Johnson decided to file the lawsuit in August when the agents involved with the arrest were neither suspended nor punished. “I know that Martese sees himself as an agent of change. But he has filed this lawsuit in his own name and you saw what happened to him that night. The question at the center of this is: was this an appropriate level of force used?” Johnson’s criminal lawyer, Daniel Watkins, told the newspaper.

Virginia’s governor, Terry McAuliffe, has since signed an executive order mandating changes at ABC, but it’s clear that the agency is in dire need of more reform. Here’s hoping Johnson’s lawsuit will spark some of that change.

Image via Martese Johnson.

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