Martese Johnson: ‘It doesn’t matter what I do in this world, I’m still an African-American’

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Martese Johnson, the Kenwood Academy graduate who become the bloodied face of protest as a University of Virginia student after a violent arrest, is continuing to speak out.

Charges concerning underage drinking were formally dropped Thursday — though officers involved in the incident will not be charged as a result. On Thursday night, he talked to the Sun-Times about the incident that left him bloodied and incited three days of protests at the school. On Friday morning, he talked to the CBS Morning News about the arrest and his takeaways after the takedown by Alcoholic Beverage Control officers outside a college bar in March.

Johnson told CBS about how he escaped the dangers of Chicago violence, but that he believes his race is still a hurdle despite his accomplishments:

Although I left the South Side of Chicago, I hadn’t left my skin behind, he said. And at the end of the day, I’ll always be a black man. Always be seen as a criminal, always be seen as dangerous. . . . I’ve come to the University of Virginia. I’ve joined the Honor Committee to prove that I’m an honorable student with integrity, Johnson said. And with all those things done, it meant absolutely nothing, at the end of the day.

Johnson originally was arrested trying to enter a bar in an underage drinking sweep, officers said. Video and images of the aftermath, his head bleeding after being slammed to the sidewalk by ABC police, sparked outrage as the university community rallied behind the co-chair of the Honor Committee.

Arresting officers said Johnson was combative and intoxicated, an account countered by witnesses, including the owner of Trinity Irish Pub, South Side native Kevin Badke, who said Johnson was “cordial and respectful” and did not appear drunk.

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