ABC agents should not be allowed policing power following Martese Johnson incident

Morgan White
Opinion Editor

It’s more comfortable to look the other way when the world burns, but that ignorance doesn’t keep it from burning. Those with power abuse it and racism exists in 2015. 

The Alcoholic Beverage Control agents that are responsible for slamming the face of Martese Johnson into the pavement when he tried to enter a bar in Charlottesville because he was 20 are a blatant reminder of this. A student at U.Va., Johnson is on the honor committee and is regarded as one of the top student leaders at the school.

The official reason why the ABC agents arrested him is because he was denied entry into a bar. They believed he had a fake I.D., which he did not.

According to a statement released by the student group Concerned Black Student the agents slammed Johnson into the ground after he asked them to let go of his arm. The head wound that Johnson received from this required 10 stitches to close. The statement was circulated by U.Va. Black Student Alliance, which Johnson is the leadership development chair of.

“The uniformed ABC Agents observed and approached the individual after he was refused entry to a licensed establishment,” Virginia ABC said in a statement. “A determination was made by the agents to further detain the individual based on their observations and further questioning.”

The ABC agents are sworn in police officers who have the ability to carry out arrests for ABC violations as well as any other violations of Virginia criminal law.

The statement said Johnson did not resist questioning or arrest, but ABC agents pinned him to the pavement with their knees on his back. Johnson was still charged with public swearing/ intoxication and obstructing justice.

In the video of his arrest, one onlooker repeatedly shouts, “Yo his head is bleeding!” Johnson can be heard yelling, “I go to UVA. You fucking racists. How did this happen?” A picture circulated online shows Johnson lying on the sidewalk with his face bloodied as an officer appears to restrain him.

Virginia State Police said that an “administrative review” will be conducted along with a criminal investigation requested by the Charlottesville prosecutor. The treatment Johnson received was another example of authoritative brutality and was far from necessary. Johnson wasn’t waving a gun, he simply stood in a line to get into a bar. It’s not necessary for a student to be arrested after being denied entry.

State Sen. Donald McEachin of Henrico County said, “Given what happened yesterday and what happened a couple of years ago, it raises some serious questions in my mind whether they should have arrest powers,” in an Associated Press story on Thursday. The case McEachin spoke of was Elizabeth Daly.

Daly was leaving a grocery store in Charlottesville in 2013 with two sorority sisters after buying canned sparkling water and cookie dough. The ABC agents staking out the parking lot of Harris Teeter to seek out underage buyers of alcohol believed she had bought alcohol and surrounded her car, Daly turned on her car to roll the window down and called the police to report what was happening.

An agent jumped on her hood when she turned the car on. Another was attempting to break her window with a flashlight while flashing a gun at her.

What happened to Johnson mirrors the type of unjustified arrest that happened to Daly. What happened to Johnson mirrors police brutality nationwide.

Black lives matter. The injustices that black men and women go through each day deserve to be combated head-on. They deserve the protests of VCU students and all other students nationwide with a platform to do so. The protests against the ABC agents for bloodying the face of Johnson are something that should claim awareness.

At the end of this the conclusion the government and society as a whole will come to will be that the agents employed should not be on par with sworn in police officers.

McEachin has the right frame of mind on how the ABC should be dealt with. They should not have the same power to arrest as police because they have shown time after time that they are not capable of doing so in the correct manner.

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