[News] Greensboro Issues Historic Apology for Police Complicity in 1979 KKK and Nazi Massacre

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 7 13:24:13 EDT 2020

*Greensboro Issues Historic Apology for Police Complicity in 1979 KKK and
Nazi Massacre*

October 7, 2020.   The Greensboro City Council, in an unprecedented and
historic move, voted on Tuesday evening, October 6, 2020, to make an
official, substantive apology to the widows, survivors, and residents of
Morningside Homes for the involvement of the City of Greensboro and the
Greensboro Police Department in the 1979 Greensboro Massacre and its
subsequent cover up. The widows and survivors of the Greensboro Massacre,
with the active support of the Greensboro Pulpit Forum, a predominately
African American ministerial association, have been demanding an apology
from the City for many years.

Forty-one years ago, on November 3, 1979, at approximately 11:20 AM on a
bright Saturday morning, nine carloads of Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and American
Nazi Party members drove into the preparation site for an anti-Klan March
and Conference. The purpose of the March and Conference was to unite Black
and white workers in the surrounding textile mills and to facilitate
community building between the workers and Greensboro's broader Black
population. Upon their arrival, the attackers shot and killed five people,
wounded ten others, and terrorized a poor Black public housing community.

The Greensboro police had a paid Klan police informant, Edward Dawson,
among the white supremacists who perpetrated the attack. The Federal Bureau
of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) also had an undercover agent,
Bernard Butkovich, who was among the Nazis.  While both informants passed
on information to the police, both also seemed to have acted in complicity
with the aims of the white supremacist groups. Dawson led the Klan-Nazi car
caravan on November 3 directly to the March starting point at Morningside
Homes, guided by a copy of the organizers' parade permit handed to him by
the Greensboro police a few days earlier.

Rev. Steve Allen, a former lawyer and judge, and the current President of
the Greensboro Pulpit Forum, said: "We as an association of clergy joined
the survivors in demanding an apology from the City of Greensboro in
October of 2019 for a grievous wrong that occurred in our City. We did not
see how our city could grow into its full potential as long as the gravity
of this evil act in which the Greensboro Police was deeply complicit
remained unacknowledged by city leaders."

The apology acknowledges that the Greensboro Police Department (GPD) knew
well in advance that the white supremacists planned to attack the march and
conference participants and that they were heavily armed. Though the March
planners had secured a legal parade permit, and though the GPD had
extensive advance knowledge of the motives and presence of the heavily
armed attackers, and were surveilling the movements of the Klan/Nazi
caravan on the day of the murders, no police were present to warn or
protect the marchers or the community.

In two subsequent criminal trials with all white juries, one for murder and
the other for violation of civil rights, all Klan and Nazi members were
acquitted.  In 1985, in a civil suit brought by survivors, a jury with one
black member found Klan and Nazi members, together with Greensboro police
officers, jointly liable for one death—Dr. Michael Nathan's. This was the
first time in the history of the nation that Klansmen, Nazis and police
officers were found jointly liable for wrongful death. The City of
Greensboro paid the $351,000 liability but strongly denied any wrongdoing
at that time. The Klan and Nazis paid nothing.

The apology issued by the City Council also announced that beginning in
2021, the City would award annual scholarships to five graduating seniors
of Dudley High School, a historic, predominantly black Greensboro high
school. Each scholarship would be in the amount of $1,979 dollars, and
would be given in the names *of Cesar Cauce, Michael Nathan, William
Sampson, Sandra Neely Smith and James Waller*, during the Annual Citywide
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast. The apology document states:
"The scholarships will be awarded to individuals who submit an entry
focusing on the issues of racial and social justice that help this
community reconcile the remaining vestiges of the events of November 3,
1979 and that may even help city officials understand these issues in the
context of future events in this community and around the nation."

This decision ensures that the names of the five people killed would be
called publicly and respectfully each year instead of being demonized and
dismissed as "Communists."

Former Greensboro Mayor and current Mayor pro tem Yvonne Johnson, who
offered a personal apology during the 40th Anniversary Commemoration of the
Greensboro Massacre in November of 2019, said: "I am sad that it took us so
long to squarely face this matter, but I am glad we finally did."

It is worth noting that Greensboro is the home of the nation's first sit-in
movement on February 1, 1960, growing out of the brave actions of four
freshmen students from North Carolina A&T State University, a historically
Black institution.  Greensboro also initiated the nation's first Truth and
Reconciliation Commission (2004-2006) which studied the 1979 Massacre and
was advised by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Truth Commissioners from South
Africa and Peru. The City refused to endorse the Commission during its

Rev. Nelson Johnson, one of the organizers of the planned march and
conference that ended in the attack, linked the 1979 murders, police
complicity, and their aftermath to the nation's current struggle with
issues of police brutality and white supremacy : "Forty-one years of denial
and blaming the victims is completely consistent with what we see now in
the wake of the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and in the
related demonizing and marginalizing of the Movement for Black Lives (MBL).
In fact, the effort to get justice locally in Greensboro for the outrageous
police murder of Marcus Smith in 2018 is part of the same movement, in that
Marcus's death reflects everything the Movement for Black Lives has been
marching against." Marcus Smith was a young black man who died after being
hog-tied and  brutally restrained by Greensboro police.

Rev. Johnson continued: "We are grateful for this day; I know the widows
and all the survivors are grateful as well. It has been a long, difficult
journey from 1979 to this day."

Our nation is at a crossroads. Across America, local communities are
confronting a police culture that has too often seen white supremacists as
"heavily armed friendlies." These white supremacist forces--direct
descendants of the KKK and the fascist movements of the 1930s --have been
unleashed by the divisive rhetoric emanating from the highest levels of our
political system all the way down to local cops who welcome armed white
vigilantes into the streets of our cities to attack peaceful demonstrators.

What the members of the Greensboro City Council have finally done is a
crucial step in the right direction. The current atmosphere of fear,
falsehoods and threats of massive force in our nation is eerily similar to
the atmosphere in Greensboro in the days, months and years following the
Massacre. This, however, is also an extraordinary moment, as the state of
our national politics has created an opening for acknowledgement and
healing of the wounds of racism and violence that have shaped our nation's

The question is, will we, the People of the United States, be strong and
courageous enough to confront the realities of our flawed democracy, our
flawed financial system, and our flawed policing and justice system or will
we allow the forces of racism, fear, bullying and ignorance continue to run
our country's politics—a politics that has resulted in massive and growing
poverty at the bottom while the billionaire class wallows in obscene levels
of wealth at the top.

This is a small but deeply significant step towards greater truth, justice
and healing in Greensboro, even if over 40 years late. Could it also be the
beginning of a national Truth, Justice and Reconciliation process for
America that might finally lead to a greater measure of acknowledgement,
truth, healing and the moral and systemic changes America so desperately


*From Floris Cauce Weston, Widow of Cesar Cauce *

*(Washington, DC, **weston002 at comcast.net* <weston002 at comcast.net>*) *

 I will be proud to know that there will be a Cesar Cauce scholarship
recipient each year. However, healing your community will not only be about
annual scholarships. You must change the police culture in your city so
that they can be the law enforcers and the peacekeepers that the community

 Against the political backdrop of a country that no longer remembers that
a tyrant once rose-up and used race baiting and white supremacy to take the
world to war and kill more than 6-million people, this apology may be too
little too late. I fear more, now than ever, that more protesters may be

 My inclination to say something healing and unifying is taking a back seat
to my desire to shout about all the years that I watched, incredulously, as
the city remained silent. How much more this would have meant if this
apology had come 30 or even 20 years ago. Are you speaking up now because
you, too, are afraid that more protester's lives may be at risk?

 Please do not let this be the one and only time that you take courage and
do the hard thing. There are many other people wrongfully killed and
incarcerated.  Continue to show courage and leadership and do more to make
a difference.

*From Marty Nathan, MD, Widow of Dr. Michael Nathan and Mother of Leah
Nathan, 6 months old when her father was killed on November 3, 1979 *

*(Northampton, MA, **martynathan1 at gmail.com* <martynathan1 at gmail.com>*) *

 Mike Nathan was prevented from becoming the outstanding pediatrician,
father and community leader that I know he would have become had the
Greensboro Police and City fathers not ushered in and protected those who
killed him and four other brilliant and talented young people. Their crime
was to hate racism and suffering. What a terrible loss.

 We who loved those five have grown through the course of our grief and the
pursuit of a justice that was never to be granted. This apology reaffirms
our belief, though, that humans have the capacity to recognize that which
they have done wrong and attempt to repair the damage. We thank the Pulpit
Forum and the City for affirming that belief.

The violence inflicted on millions throughout our country's history cries
for similar recognition and reparation. May this apology and the dialogue
that it promotes be a model for addressing the historical wrongs that
persist and continue to shape our society.

*From Signe Waller Foxworh, Widow of Dr. James Waller *

*(Greensboro, NC **signewaller at yahoo.com* <signewaller at yahoo.com>*) *

 I welcome this apology of substance offered by the Greensboro City Council
and I see it as nothing less than support for the divine force for
transformation and healing at work in the universe.

Simultaneously, I offer a challenge to the Council: We cannot wait forty
years for the next brave act by our elected or appointed leaders. If we do
not *now and consistently henceforth* enact a radical reconstruction of our
society, our children and grandchildren will be climate refugees, or
spending the last days of human civilization in a radiated wasteland, or
wandering streets filled with death, violence, racism and hatred in an
apartheid country that was formerly the United States of America. These
possible scenarios can happen in this or the next decade if we continue in
denial and in a business-as-usual mode. There is no time for anything but
bold social transformation that addresses the confluence of existential
crises we face. What you have done with your apology may be of far greater
importance than you or I imagine. Please fast-track acting responsibly,
make it a habit, and let us work together to save life, truth, justice and
beauty on this planet.



*Email: **tutunontombi at gmail.com <tutunontombi at gmail.com>*

 It is a glorious day in Greensboro.

 Glorious not only for the victims and survivors of the November 3 1979
massacre, but for the whole city and community. A community cannot be
strong by ignoring the atrocities committed on its soil, nor can a
community survive with a history based on lies. By making an official
apology to the people who suffered through the actions of the KKK and the
Nazis, and the inaction of its own police and government officials, the
Greensboro City Council has joined the movement for true reconciliation.

 Even as we applaud the City Council for taking this step we must
acknowledge how long it has taken to get here. We must speak of the
acquittal of the murderers by all white juries. We must speak of the 41
years that have passed since the massacre, the many decades in which clergy
and community activists have been spurned in their attempt to speak the
truth and work for reconciliation.

 So we must thank those who have persisted in their struggle for justice
and reconciliation. In particular, we are thankful for the life and witness
of Nelson and Joyce Johnson who worked to establish and raise funds for the
Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We give thanks for all of
those who served on the Commission and made it their work to show that
their interest was not in telling the story for the story's sake, but to
give Greensboro an opportunity to acknowledge the massacre and from that
pain build a stronger more just community.

 The work of Truth and Reconciliation is not an easy way out of dealing
with past injustices, it requires courage and compassion to follow this
path rather than simply seeking revenge. The City of Greensboro has been
offered a way to heal and build upon this formal apology. It is a victory
for all those who want to see their city involved in a process of healing
and commitment to an equitable future. That journey was started by
organizations like the Beloved Community and the survivors of the massacre;
how wonderful it is that the City has now joined in that journey.

 Congratulations to all the people of Greensboro.


*Email: **pstoreysa at gmail.com* <pstoreysa at gmail.com>

Hello Joyce,

 Here is my message to you all.

 Today I give thanks that a journey begun four decades ago in ruthless
violence and dreadful pain, has come to this point of apology and
contrition. The journey has been agonizing and long, and there have been
many, many disappointments along the way, yet what gives me great joy today
is the God-given stubbornness and the persistent faith of those amazing
persons who never left the path and whose work this has been.

 I was privileged to share a small part of the journey when you were
setting up the Greensboro TRC, and I was there when the report of that
courageous group was made public. At the time there were those who feared
it would 'stir up old enmities' but instead, the truths revealed by that
report began to set more and more people free – free to face the past, to
acknowledge it, and to work for its healing.

Today's events are a massive leap forward on this journey toward healing.
Celebrate it! Embrace it! Give thanks to God for it!

Warm greetings

Rev Prof Peter Storey,

Cape Town,

South Africa.


*Email**:** eduardo at gonzalezc.com* <eduardo at gonzalezc.com>

Dear Joyce and Nelson:

It has been almost twenty years since we met, back in Peru, as you started
to develop the historic Greensboro truth and reconciliation process, and
came to my country to observe the operations of our truth commission. I am
forever humbled and thankful that the interaction with the suffering and
hope of my people was inspirational for you.

 The Greensboro TRC, which you launched, together with so many survivors,
who continue to be advocates for justice to this day, is widely recognized
as a foundational experience in the United States. As several truth
commissions emerge today to face the challenge of systemic racism, the
people of Greensboro have a tremendous contribution to make.

The victims of the Greensboro massacre were as young and idealistic as
those who, today, claim for justice, marching in the streets of all cities
in the nation. The Greensboro five did not die, but became millions. As I
learn that the City of Greensboro will pass a resolution extending a formal
apology for the events of 1979, I can't help but think of what a triumph
this is for reconciliation. I commit to disseminate this resolution widely
so that it inspires all those fighting for justice today.

In solidarity

Eduardo Gonzalez


*Email: *mark.sills at gmail.com

 I am profoundly grateful that the City of Greensboro has finally decided
to acknowledge the multiple failures, both active and passive, that
contributed significantly to the tragic death of five valiant
individuals. These were people who had dedicated their lives to building a
more just, sustainable, and inclusive society. When mistakes are
acknowledged, progress becomes possible. When truth is accepted and
embraced, even after a long period of denial, healing becomes much more
likely. It is my sincere hope that this act of honest and much needed
apology will be the catalyst for substantive, positive change. Our future
as a community will be much brighter and more certain because of this.
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