A Black Woman Accused A White Woman Of Threatening Protesters. That’s Not What Happened, Report Says.

In the summer of 2020, amidst the COVID lockdowns and Black Lives Matter protests, a white student at the University of Virginia was accused of threatening black protesters and was punished.

But the account given by the black protester who accused the student wasn’t backed up by evidence or witnesses, according to a report from Reason magazine. In fact, the university’s student judicial system apparently accepted the white girl’s version of events, yet punished her anyway.

It all began on the evening of July 17, 2020. Then-19-year-old Zyahna Bryant, one of the Black Women Matter protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, that evening, claimed on social media that a white woman in a vehicle approached protesters and told them they would make “good speed bumps.”

“She then called the police and started crying saying we were attacking her,” Bryant claimed, according to Reason.

To support her claims, Bryant posted several videos showing an SUV reversing down a street as she and other protesters followed it. Bryant can be heard saying “It’s a Karen, it’s a Karen.” The videos don’t show the vehicle’s driver saying anything about speed bumps, Reason reported.

In a Medium post shortly after the incident, the group behind the protest, Charlottesville Beyond Policing, claimed that the woman “drove around the public works truck blocking the street that demonstrators were convened on, and felt compelled to say, not just once, but twice, that protesters would ‘make good speed bumps.’”

“The second time she repeated it loudly to a Black protester and added ‘good f***ing speed bumps,’” the group claimed, according to Reason.

One local news outlet appeared to believe the claim, commenting, “The threat is especially chilling and violent given that Heather Heyer was murdered by a driver just a few blocks from where the protest took place.”


A student-run website also said it could “confirm” that the white woman “refused to leave the scene even though protesters were asking her to, and at no point were protesters blocking her car.”

Because the vehicle’s license plate was featured in Bryant’s videos, people quickly identified the driver as Morgan Bettinger, a senior at UVA.

Bryant started a campaign to get mass complaints sent to UVA administrators in an effort to get Bettinger expelled, according to Reason. Bryant also filed her own complaint with the University Judiciary Committee (UJC), a student-run disciplinary system that took up the case. The university also said it would investigate the matter.

Bettinger’s version of events is much different than Bryant’s. Bettinger told Reason that she was returning home from work when she saw a dump truck partially blocking the road ahead. She kept driving toward it before realizing that the road was completely blocked. She claimed she had no room to turn around, so she parked her car and stepped out to see why the road was blocked.

She said that when she did so, the driver of the dump truck started a conversation with her. It was brief and casual, Bettinger claimed, and at some point, she said she told the driver something like, “It’s a good thing that you are here, because otherwise these people would have been speed bumps,” Reason reported.

Bettinger told the outlet that, after speaking to the truck driver, she walked around the truck to see the protest, took a photo, and went back to her car. She said some protesters then started recording and following her, so she jumped back in her car and called her mom. She claimed the crowd became aggressive and some started shouting at her, with one pounding on her windows.

“With the one woman hitting on my car and other people shouting and starting to threaten me, I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Bettinger told Reason.

At her trial before the UJC, Bettinger faced Bryant for the first time. After each woman told her story, the UJC found Bettinger guilty, even though it seemed to accept that her version of events was the truth. Reason Magazine reported it could not find any rationale behind the panel’s decision, except for a paragraph that was read to Bettinger after she was found guilty.

“We the judges of this trial panel find that your actions on July 17th were shameful and put members of the community at risk,” the jury read, according to Reason. “You yourself acknowledged saying ‘it’s a good thing you are here because, otherwise, these people would have been speed bumps.’ Given the tragic events of August 12 and the context in which you uttered these words, you disregarded Charlottesville’s violent history. A history you should have been cognizant of as a UVA student and resident of Charlottesville. During these proceedings you have shown no understanding of the risk this statement posed.”

The panel referenced the August 12, 2017, Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, which involved white supremacists and the death of a white counter-protester, Heather Heyer.

Bettinger was sentenced on September 28, 2020, to 50 hours of community service at a social justice organization, three meetings with a professor to teach her about “police community relations,” an apology letter to Bryant, and she was expelled in abeyance, meaning she would be expelled if she committed a second offense similar to this one.

Bettinger graduated but had a mark on her record preventing her from moving on with her life, as well as the notoriety that came from the assault on her reputation.

A year later, UVA’s Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights (EOCR) completed its own investigation based on a separate complaint filed by Bryant, which claimed Bettinger harassed her based on her race.

The EOCR investigation, completed in June 2021, found that Bettinger didn’t legally harass Bryant and provided more detail on Bryant’s original complaint, according to Reason.

Reason obtained a copy of the EOCR report, which it said showed that individuals interviewed by the office claimed Bettinger made the “speed bumps” remark five times, but only one had actual evidence supporting it: The same one Bettinger admitted to making and said wasn’t a threat.

This was also the only allegation made by other witnesses and not by Bryant.

Three of Bryant’s four allegations weren’t corroborated by other witnesses, even though they occurred in front of a large crowd, according to Reason’s review of the report. In two of her allegations, Bryant changed her story, Reason reported. The fourth allegation – that Bettinger allegedly made a “speed bump” threat over the top of her car – had a witness to back up Bryant’s claim, but that witness contradicted themselves and Bryant when interviewed. Bryant also later told investigators she wasn’t sure if she heard Bettinger make this particular threat, according to Reason.

Video evidence also supported the idea that Bryant never heard Bettinger say anything about “speed bumps.” Instead, another protester makes the claim while Bryant is filming, to which Bryant responded with surprise, the EOCR report said.

“Based on Bryant’s immediate and surprised tone following the second third party’s reply, EOCR finds it more likely than not that it was at that moment Bryant first learned that [Bettinger] made a statement about protestors making speed bumps,” the report said according to Reason.

Even though Bettinger’s outside lawyer argued that the EOCR report exonerated Bettinger, UVA’s president refused to overturn her sanction, saying it had been “properly adjudicated,” Reason reported.

Since the ordeal, Bryant has continued to participate as a social justice activist, while Bettinger reportedly lives in a state of limbo, unable to move forward.

“This whole situation has had a huge impact on my life,” Bettinger told Reason. “The university has never had to answer for what their actions have done.”

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