Persuaded that "Terrence Johnson will be free as a result of the people's movement," about 200 supporters of the Free Terrence Johnson Coalition marched around the Hyattsville police station yesterday, then gathered at the University of Maryland for a rally.
The coalition, composed of community and student groups and a variety of Socialist and Communist organizations, held the rally yesterday to increase support for Johnson, who goes on trial for murder on Monday in Upper Marlboro.
Terrence Johnson, the group contends, was a victim of police brutality who acted in self defense when he shot Prince George's County police officers Albert M. Claggett and James Brian Swart last June 26 in the Hyattsville police station.
"We can't just let Terry go through the courts with two or three lawyers to defend him," said Patrice Ganci, a member of a group called D.C. United to Fight Back and a leader of the Coalition. "By letting it be known that the people are not going to allow Terrence Johnson to be railroaded, we can influence his defense."
Among yesterday's speakers was Ronald Hampton, the president of the D.C. Afro-American Police Officers Association, whose statements in the past in support of Johnson caused a controversy within his own 150-member group.
"We as black police officers must be observers of the criminal justice system in Maryland," Hampton said. "If we allow them to ramrod Terrence Johnson, they'll do it to anybody."
Few persons witnessed the afternoon march around the police station, which lies in a commercial area. But one Prince George's detective who paused outside the the Hyattsville station to watch the demonstrators remarked, "I think it's stupid. Obviously, this trial is not going to be on the facts of the case. It's going to be a trial of the Prince George's Police Department."