Morgan Alyse Bettinger, a senior at the University of Virginia, was accused of telling social justice activist Zyahna Bryant, 19, that protesters would "make good f*ck*ng speed bumps" during a Black Women Matters protest in Charlottesville Virginia in 2020.
"The woman in this truck approached protesters in #Charlottesville, and told us that we would make 'good speedbumps,'" Bryant wrote on Twitter. "She then called the police and started crying saying we were attacking her."
Bryant then sent out a series of tweets which included videos of protesters surrounding Bettinger's vehicle as she attempted to drive away from the scene while taunting her and calling her names such as "Karen." Bryant never posted a video of Bettinger telling the group of protesters that they would "make good f*cking speed bumps."
Following the altercation, the group that organized the protest, Charlottesville Beyond Policing, wrote about the incident in a blog post on Medium and claimed, the woman (Bettinger) "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 fucking speed bumps,'" they alleged, according to Reason.
Those allegations quickly went viral across social media and were picked up by news outlets like C-VILLE Weekly who repeated the false claims, adding to the character assassination of an innocent student, Reason reports.
"While the group gathered on East High Street, a white woman drove around the public works truck blocking the road, and twice told the protesters they would 'make good speed bumps,'" C-VILLE Weekly reported. "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."
Heather Heyer, 32, was tragically killed during the infamous 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville after an individual drove his vehicle into a group of protesters. This fact was used as a reason to condemn Bettinger.
The outlet seemingly tried to link Bettinger to the "white supremacist" group that came to Charlottesville, which only added fuel to the allegations that ultimately resulted in the university publicly condemning Bettinger after students and professors formed an outrage campaign encouraging the university to take action against Bettinger.
The following day, Bryant made it her mission to get Bettinger expelled and started a campaign for students to send mass email complaints to the administration, Reason reports.
"EMAIL these UVA deans now to demand that Morgan face consequences for her actions and that UVA stop graduating racists," Bryant tweeted, who filed a complaint with the University Judiciary Committee (UJC) according to the outlet.
Jalane Schmidt, a professor at the University replied to Bryant's tweets and wrote, "*She* called the police?? To do what? Report herself for making a threat??"
Ellen Yates, Student Council President, called the incident on Twitter, "Absolutely disgusting."
"She knew the history, and she knew what she was doing. A person who makes this kind of threat should not be a student at UVA. There can be no community of trust with people like her in it," Yates wrote.
After the student newspaper highlighted the incident which sparked significant outrage and calls for Bettinger to be expelled, the University of Virginia released a statement and indicated that they were "investigating" the matter.
"The University of Virginia strongly condemns any threat directed at other members of our community. We are aware of the allegations on social media about a student's conduct with respect to a protest in the city and are actively investigating the matter," the statement reads.
However, this wasn't enough for the outrage mob who accused the university of "coddling little white girls." They wanted the university to take action before the investigation was completed, and shortly after, the university found Bettinger guilty of "threatening the health or safety" of students, Reason reports.
The University of Virginia punished Bettinger with an abeyance expulsion, where she was allowed to resume her studies but would be expelled if she were to violate the student code of conduct for a second time.
However, a student-run investigation found that Bryant's claims were false and believed Bettinger's story surrounding the incident that occurred that day.
According to court documents, on July 17, 2020, "Bettinger was driving home from work on East High Street, near downtown Charlottesville, when she saw a dump truck blocking the road ahead. Bettinger says the truck didn't appear to be completely blocking the intersection of East High and 4th Street, so she kept driving," Reason reports.
Bettinger then parked her vehicle and went to investigate why the road was blocked as she says that she had no room to turn around. She then had a brief conversation with the driver of the dump truck who was blocking the road and told the driver, "It's a good thing that you are here, because otherwise these people would have been speed bumps."
During the investigation, the driver corroborated those claims to Charlottesville police, although said that he could not remember verbatim what Bettinger had said.
"Not once did anything from the past, of even the rally, Unite the Right rally, cross my mind," Bettinger told police. "It was simply a comment made to a [dump] truck driver who was sitting and blocking the road, and just saying, like, 'It's good you're here.'"After the conversation with the tuck driver, Bettinger walked around the truck and took a photo of the crowd. Protesters then took an interest in her and started video recording her. Bettinger then returned to her vehicle and called her mother. The crowd became hostile and agressive and swarmed her vehicle. One protester started pounding on her window, according to court documents.
"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 says. That's when she called the police, Reason reports. She was later able to escape after protesters, which included Bryant, gave her enough space.
After police arrived, officers helped her maneuver down East High Street and she drove home.
"We had gone down a couple of blocks and they wanted to see how I was doing because I was quite shaken up," Bettinger says. "I was physically shaking and very taken aback by the whole experience."
On September 28, 2020, the UJC jury found Bettinger "guilty." She was sentenced to "50 hours of community service with a social justice organization, three meetings with an assigned professor to teach her about "police-community relations," an apology letter to Bryant, and the expulsion in abeyance," Reason reports.
However, Bettinger was vindicated in June 2021 after a full investigation revealed that Bettinger did not legally harass Bryant and that Bryant's allegations were false.
Bryant has received glowing praise from the Washington Post and had been profiled in The New York Times for her social justice activism. In 2020, Bryant was named to Teen Vogue's "21 under 21" list. As for Bettinger, she will spend years of her life working to restore her character.
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