Friday, May 26, 2006


On November 3, 1979, a caravan of Klansmen and Nazis opened fire on a anti-Klan rally organized by the Communist Workers Party (CWP) that was just about to get underway. In broad daylight, the assailants gunned down five young revolutionaries, as television cameras rolled and the Greensboro police looked on.

As you read the article below keep in mind these words of Yonni Chapman when he testified in 2002 before the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission,
"At root, what the mainstream storyline about November 3 adds up to can be expressed in a single word--denial. The fringe group shoot out line denies that the confrontation of November 3 grew out of the failure of Greensboro to acknowledge and remedy longstanding and systemic traditions of racial injustice and the suppression of workers' rights. It dismisses as unimportant the fact that the city of Greensboro denied the anti-Klan demonstrators the protection promised them and due all Americans. It justifies the assassination of young people upholding the best American values of fairness and equality by denying their humanity and labeling them 'the communists.' Most of all, it denies justice by blaming the victims for their own murders and making it far more difficult for us to recognize and root out injustice today."

On November 3, 1979, Chapman was one of the anti-klan demonstrators and was a member of the Communist Workers Party. Since that time he has continued racial justice organizing in chapel Hill and serves as the historian of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP.

To read the entire transcript of his testimony go to

The following article comes from the Greensbor, North Carolina News-Record. It's interesting that the local paper attempted to soft peddle the report with the headline and the opening paragraph you will read below.

Blame for shootings shared, report says

GREENSBORO -- Klansmen and Nazis, the Greensboro Police Department and even Communist demonstrators bear responsibility -- but not equal responsibility -- for the shootings that killed five demonstrators on Nov. 3, 1979.

Also, Greensboro and its police department should apologize for failing to protect the public and members of the Communist Workers Party.

That's what a panel investigating the Klan/Nazi shootings has determined after a two-year investigation into the incident.

The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its long-awaited report during a ceremony Thursday night, and provided copies of a 49-page executive summary of its findings.

Copies of the full report -- some 400 pages -- will be available late next week for free through the Greensboro Public Library. The report is also available on the group's Web site:

Commissioners discussed their findings earlier Thursday with survivors and victims' families, so as not "to add to their pain," said Commissioner Muktha Jost.

At the three-hour release ceremony, survivors and leaders of community groups thanked commissioners but said the report is just the start.

"This report is a beginning if we make it a beginning," said Steve Simpson of the National Conference for Community and Justice of the Piedmont Triad.

Some said the work of the commission, if acted on, could move the city forward beyond the events of Nov. 3, 1979.

"I'm so happy to see this day," said Signe Waller, widow of one of the shooting victims, Jim Waller.

"It's a milestone on a long, difficult, painful road to truth."

The seven-member commission spent two years investigating the shootings, which left five dead and 10 injured.

A separate group, the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Project, will host discussions about the report throughout the summer.

The Klan-Nazi shootings happened the morning of Nov. 3 just as the Death to the Klan march was forming in the Morningside Homes community. The neighborhood has since been torn down for new development.

A heavily armed caravan of Klansmen and Nazis drove into the area and confronted anti-Klan marchers, many of whom were members of what became the Communist Workers Party. During the ensuing gunfire, captured on videotape by TV crews, five anti-Klan marchers were killed and 10 others wounded.

Two long and expensive criminal trials brought no convictions for Nazis and Klansmen, who claimed self-defense.

Among the findings in the commission's executive summary:

• Klansmen and Nazis drove toward the rally that morning with "malicious intent." There's evidence to show they came to Greensboro "to provoke a violent confrontation" they discussed on multiple occasions.

The executive summary singles out five Klansmen who opened the trunks of cars to retrieve weapons.

• The Greensboro Police Department showed "a stunning lack of curiosity in planning for the safety of the event."

The commission singled out for harsh criticism the department's handling of informant Eddie Dawson, a Klan member:

"Informants are by definition party to criminal activity, but we find that the decision to pay an informant and fail to intervene when he takes a leadership role to provoke and orchestrate a criminal act, with the full knowledge of police handlers, is negligent and unconscionably bad policing."

• Commissioners rejected the long-standing belief that police officers weren't on the scene at Morningside Homes because the protestors gave purposefully misleading information about where the march would begin.

Internal police records show that the discrepancy about the location was "repeatedly discussed" during planning meetings.

• " 'Death to the Klan' " was an unfortunate slogan for the parade," the commissioners found. They also found a statement by CWP member Paul Bermanzohn -- that the Klan "must be physically beaten back, eradicated, exterminated, wiped off the face of the earth -- to be "troubling."

The CWP was "very naive about the level of danger posed by their rhetoric," the summary reads. But commissioners attribute that to the police department's failure to tell the protestors about the Klan's plans.

• The all-white jury in the state criminal trial was caused by a "problematic jury selection process." Before 1986, defense attorneys and prosecutors could strike a potential juror from the pool based on race.

On Thursday night, former District Attorney Mike Schlosser, who tried the state criminal cases, said he agreed with those findings. Defense attorneys dismissed black jurors, which he said hampered his efforts to convict the Klansmen.

"It would have been much more fair to have a jury that represented the community," he said.

In addition to asking the city of Greensboro and its police department to apologize, the commission also made recommendations about how the community can heal:

• The city should "make a proclamation that lifts up the importance" of Nov. 3, 1979, in Greensboro's history.

• People who have any responsibility for the tragedy should apologize publicly or privately.

• People who feel responsible can offer restitution to the victims by contributing to a public monument remembering the incident.

• The News & Record should act alone or with other media outlets to host a citywide panel that could comment on "news process, content, quality and ethics."

You can read the report itself at

No comments: