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Martese Johnson Was 'Polite and Cordial' Before Arrest, Bar Says

Johnson's arrest last week outside a bar triggered protests and an investigation.
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Martese Johnson, the University of Virginia student whose bloody arrest outside a pub last week triggered protests, was "polite and cordial" when he was denied entry and did not appear drunk, the management of the bar said.

Images of Johnson being held down by officers, his face streaked with blood, were shared widely online. The hashtag #JusticeForMartese gained popularity online, while some people held "Black Lives Matter" signs on a march through Charlottesville.

Trinity Irish Pub said that Johnson, 20, was denied entry after he gave the wrong answer when a bouncer examined his ID and asked him the ZIP code. The bar’s statement quoted its managing owner, Kevin Badke, as saying that Johnson was “a disappointed patron."

The statement characterizes what happened next this way:

Mr. Badke immediately responded that he could not accept it. Mr. Johnson, probably realizing the reason for the error, stated that he had moved. At this point, Mr. Badke and Mr. Johnson had a brief conversation because Mr. Badke is from the south side of Chicago, where Mr. Johnson indicated he was from. In Mr. Badke’s opinion, Mr. Johnson did not appear to be intoxicated in the least. Despite the conversation, which was cordial and respectful, Mr. Badke reiterated that he could not permit him to enter. He handed Mr. Johnson his ID back and Mr. Johnson began walking in a north westerly direction up University Avenue. A few moments later, Mr. Badke heard a commotion, turned, and saw Mr. Johnson on the ground about 30 feet further up on University Avenue with ABC agents detaining him.

“There have been reported comments that management of Trinity were belligerent towards Mr. Johnson or that Mr. Johnson was belligerent towards management,” the statement said. “Those allegations are patently untrue, as the brief conversation that occurred was polite and cordial.”

Alcohol control agents had said that they planned to keep a close eye on the bar on St. Patrick’s Day because it was Irish, the statement said.

The arrest warrant filed by agents said that Johnson was “agitated and belligerent,” and he was charged with public intoxication. As he was being held down, Johnson, an honor student, screamed “I go to UVA” and called the agents racists.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe has asked the state police to investigate the arrest. Johnson needed 10 stitches.


— Erin McClam