Greensboro Massacre - THREAD.

On this day #otd 40 years ago, five anti-Klan campaigners largely from the Communist Workers Party (CWP) were shot dead by neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan activists in Greensboro, North Carolina
There had been street clashes earlier that year between Klan & anti-racist activists in April at Winston-Salem and in July at China Grove when protesters disrupted screening of pro-Klan film Birth of a Nation & CWP publicly called KKK “a bunch of two-bit cowards"
Communists, anti-racist & labour activists had called ‘Death to the Klan’ march & conference in Greensboro for 3rd November 1979.

This was in response partly to Klan efforts to counteract multi-racial union-building efforts by CWP in local textile industry
As anti-racist activists gathered for state-approved noontime march, a convoy of cars containing 40 Klansmen & neo-Nazis drew up

They started firing handguns, shotguns & rifles at 11.23 am

88 seconds later, 5 people were dead & others had been injured

4 TV companies filmed it
Cesar Cauce, James Waller, Bill Sampson & Sandi Smith were shot & killed at the scene. Michael Nathan died of his wounds at the hospital

Rest in Power.
There were no cops present at the assembly point at the time to prevent the violence.

Even though it later emerged that law enforcement had informers inside Klan & Nazis & had advance knowledge of the planned violence.

Some of the first cops on the scene arrested anti-racists
Edward Dawson, a paid informant for the Greensboro Police Department & former FBI informer in the Klan, had helped plan the massacre and had notified the Greensboro police in advance of the details. He was in one of the cars in the convoy.
Bernard Butkovich, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) agent undercover in local branch of aNazi group , had encouraged violence & the use of firearms. He was defended by his ATF superiors but later cleared in a federal civil rights suit
Despite showing of TV footage in courtroom, 1980 state trial of 14 KKK and Nazi Party assailants brought an acquittal from the local all-white jury

The trial was interrupted when the widow of one of the victims accused the state of complicity in the massacre
Trial reflected what historian Kathleen Belew has called the “entrenched racism” of the North Carolina judicial system as potential black jurors were dismissed.

Her book Bring the War Home provides useful context for Greensboro in revival of white supremacist movements
In 1983 following an investigation by FBI, a federal grand jury indicted 9 of KKK & Nazi suspects for conspiracy to violate marchers' civil rights.

1984 federal trial jury also found them not guilty after Nazis & KKK argued successfully that politics not race was their motive
3rd & final trial was in 1985 & CWP survivors won civil suit against KKK, Nazi Party, Greensboro PD, FBI & ATF.

But victory was compromised as jury awarded only $400,000 of $48 million requested and found only 7 of 65 individuals guilty, including 5 white supremacist gunmen
Several prominent white supremacists were involved in Greensboro massacre:

Virgil Lee Griffin, a leading Klan member & founder of Christian Knights of Ku Klux Klan.

Frazier Glenn Miller, founder of White Patriot Party, later found guilty of murder of 3 people at Jewish centre
Harold Covington leading Nazi & white supremacist for decades did not personally participate in the massacre though he did send members of his group & defend actions of the killers.

Covington was later involved in establishment of UK Nazi group Combat 18 (who used his P.O. Box)
In 2000s the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission was formed to improve race relations and community healing following the massacre and the various court cases You can read its final report here:
This Open Democracy report on the 25th anniversary of the massacre has some useful background & video footage…
While this recent interview with Rev Nelson Johnson, one of the survivors of the massacre, is well worth a read…
This piece published today also has some very useful context…
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