The case of Kevin Johnson, who on Saturday confessed to the jury that he killed Kirkwood police sergeant William McEntee, has been widely covered in the news. Johnson, 21 years old, is on trial for the shooting of McEntee, which occurred in the Meacham Park neighborhood of Kirkwood on July 5, 2005. Prosecutors claim he killed McEntee in retaliation for the death earlier that day of his younger brother, Joseph Long. A group of officers, including McEntee, had been called to the house after Long, who suffered from heart problems, collapsed. According to a witness who testified for the prosecution, Johnson believed the police didn't do enough to help his brother.
In cyberspace, posts on the blog of the St. Louis-based Council of Conservative Citizens (www.cofcc.org) have been hostile. That's not particularly surprising, coming from an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors extremist activity, characterizes as a "hate group."
But Johnson is not without his supporters.
For example, graffiti that said "No Tears for McEntee" appeared on a brick building in south St. Louis last Monday.
There's also a MySpace page (www.myspace.com/freekevinjohnson) that so far has acquired 181 friends. The people behind Free Kevin Johnson! don't appear to be Johnson's friends from his old neighborhood. The top four are support groups for activists, three of whom are currently imprisoned and one of whom is awaiting sentencing, for crimes related to their views on animal rights, the environment and social justice. Two are members of the Shac7, a group of activists charged with committing crimes in their attempt to shut down an animal-testing company.
A statement posted on the Free Kevin Johnson! page at the beginning of March puts forward a very different perspective on the events of July 5, 2005, stating that police arrested Johnson because they were "desperate to blame someone," and that "the state has been going to great lengths to portray Kevin as a monster" in the lead-up to the trial. "What should be abundantly clear by now, though, is it's not Kevin who's the monster," the statement reads. "The state is the real monster. "
It's not entirely clear whether the group believes Johnson is innocent or whether they believe that regardless of Johnson's actions, the real problem is the American system of government (and the media).
The group has not responded to questions e-mailed to them by RFT.
It's possible the group is connected with the local anarchist community. Shirts emblazoned with "Free Kevin Johnson" on the front and a quote from the MySpace page statement on the back are being distributed at the Black Bear Bakery on Cherokee Street, which is run by an anarchist collective.
The anarchist activists have clashed with white supremacists before, and it seems that now they're in the midst of another dispute. The person who answered the bakery's phone Friday morning says, "The bakery does not have an official stance." The worker declined to give his name, explaining, "We've been left a few threatening and racist comments on the phone."