Angry University of Virginia students streamed out of a public forum on Friday they hoped would provide answers why a black student was left with blood streaming down his face after his recent arrest.
Representatives from the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and local police promised to work with students to resolve tensions during the meeting, but refused to answer specific questions about the case involving Martese Johnson, a junior at UVA.
Johnson, 20, was left with a bloody gash on his forehead after he was arrested by the department's agents when he tried to enter a bar in the early hours of March 18.
"Let us remember that the justice system is a manifestation of a society that has not reconciled its horrific past," Black Student Alliance member Aryn Frazier said at the meeting, according to The Cavalier Daily, the university's student paper.
Many black students, upset over the responses to their questions, stormed out of the auditorium chanting "Black lives matter!"
The university's student council organized the public forum after Johnson's arrest sparked student protests on campus.
"It's my responsibility as the police chief in this city to regain [your trust]," Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo Longo said, according to The Cavalier Daily.
During a press conference on Thursday, Johnson, in a statement read by his lawyer, urged his fellow classmates not to let the incident divide the school community.
"I still believe in our community," the statement said. "I trust that the scars on my face and head will one day heal, but the trauma of what the ABC officers did yesterday will stay with me forever."
Johnson's mother, who flew in from Chicago to support him, and brother attended the press conference. His lawyer said the family will take the next few days to reflect on the incident.
Johnson's current and former classmates have rallied around him.
On Thursday, a crowdfunding campaign to cover his upcoming legal expenses soared past its $5,000 goal in a single day, and a petition calling for the dismissal of the arresting agents has generated more than 5,000 signatures.
A protest Wednesday evening on campus drew around 1,000 students. Smaller groups gathered in the library and at other areas around campus on Thursday to demand justice and an end to what they say is a pattern of police brutality against young black men. Messages using the hashtags #blacklives matter and #justiceformartese have gone viral on social media.
Johnson's roommate, Joshua Kinlaw, told ABC News, “There is nothing he could’ve said or done that could provoke an officer of the law to assault him in such a manner."
Kinlaw thinks the bloody arrest was driven by racism. He said that Johnson was trying to use his own ID, not a fake ID, to enter the bar, and disputed accounts Johnson was intoxicated.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has requested an independent investigation into the incident.But many UVA students say they doubt the investigation will lead to any change.
“The cycle is: police mess up a black student, people march, but what does it really do? What does it change?” LJ Robinson, a senior, told ThinkProgress. “It’s going to happen again, we all know it.”
Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.