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Virginia governor calls for inquiry into student arrest

Martese Johnson, 20, was arrested outside a Charlottesville's pub on 18 March. Image copyright The Cavalier Daily
Image caption Martese Johnson, 20, was arrested outside a Charlottesville's pub on Wednesday

The governor of Virginia has called for an investigation into the violent arrest of a black US student.

Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agents arrested Martese Johnson, 20, outside a Charlottesville's pub early on Wednesday, sparking protests at the University of Virginia.

A video and photos of Mr Johnson covered in blood and being pushed to the ground were widely circulated.

The white agents said Mr Johnson "was very agitated and belligerent".

But Bryan Beaubrun, a University of Virginia (UVA) student who photographed the arrest, said police acted with unnecessary force.

"He didn't need to be tackled. He wasn't being aggressive at all," Mr Beaubrun told the Associated Press.

In a statement, ABC says that "uniformed ABC Agents observed and approached" an unidentified individual "after he was refused entry to a licensed establishment" just after midnight on Wednesday in an area of bars and restaurants near the university campus known as "the Corner."

According to court records Mr Johnson was charged with obstruction of justice without force, and public swearing or intoxication.

"Governor McAuliffe is concerned by the reports of this incident and has asked the secretary of public safety to initiate an independent Virginia State Police investigation into the use of force," the Democratic governor's office said.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Martese Johnson is a third year student at the University of Virginia

The state's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control said it would cooperate with the investigation.

The agents involved have been placed on administrative duties. ABC agents focus on alcohol-related violations but are considered state-wide police officers with authority to arrest.

On Wednesday evening, hundreds of students held a protest on the UVA campus to demand justice for Mr Johnson.

Flanked by fellow students, Mr Johnson - with his face bruised and covered in stitches - was on hand for the event,

"I beg for you guys to please respect everyone here," Mr Johnson told the crowd. "We really are one community."

Mr Johnson's lawyer, Daniel P Watkins, said his client is a third-year UVA student, studying Italian and Media Studies.

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