Report Released on '70s Greensboro, N.C. Killings

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A Truth and Reconciliation Commission completes a report on the killing of five people in Greensboro, N.C., on Nov. 3, 1979. The shooting deaths occurred when the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis showed up at an anti-Klan rally organized by members of the Communist Workers Party.


A Truth and Reconciliation Commission has completed its work in Greensboro, North Carolina about an event that happened back in 1979. On November 3, of that year five people died when the Klu Klux Klan and Neo Nazis showed up at and anti-Klan rally organized by the members of the Communist Workers Party. Rusty Jacobs of North Carolina Public Radio reports.

Mr. RUSTY JACOBS (Reporter, North Carolina Public Radio): At last night's closing ceremony for the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Muktha Jost told an audience of around 200 people that she and her follow commissioners had become quite close.

Ms. MUKTHA JOST (Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission): My brothers and sisters, we have spent way too much time together in the last two years.

JACOBS: The Commission and its staff surveyed residents door to door, heard hours of testimony at three public hearings, and reviewed official records. Last night the Commission's work came to an end with a release of a report that pleases some and sure to anger many. The Commission's most contentious conclusion has to do with the Greensboro's Police Department's role in the incident.

Commissioner PAT CLARK (Greensboro): The primary contributor to the loss of life with the absence of police, which endangered the welfare of all involved, including the residents of Morningside Homes, where the shootings took place.

JACOBS: Commissioner Pat Clark presented the audience with key findings.

Ms. CLARK: Nearly all commissioners believe that the police absence was the result of some intentionality.

JACOBS: Police failed to show up that day until after the gunfire was over. In an executive summary of it report, the Commission says the Greensboro Police Department showed a quote, "stunning lack of curiosity and planning for the safety of the event." And the Commission says the department's actions were guided in part by negative feelings among some officers towards the Communist Workers Party. None of this comes as a surprise to Marty Nathan.

Ms. MARTY NATHAN (Former member, Communist Workers Party): They draw the logical conclusion that should have been drawn all the way through, that the police were complicit with the Klan.

JACOBS: Nathan is a former CWP member. Her husband Michael was one of the five demonstrators killed on November 3. Greensboro police official were unavailable for comment last night. Over the years police and city officials have disputed claims that the police were involved. The Commission's report doesn't let the CWP off the hook either. Again Commissioner Pat Clark.

Ms. CLARK: We find that the Communist Workers Party members did not seek or deserve to be killed. They did however underestimate the danger of taunting the Klan with provocative language and for beating on caravan cars with sticks. A few members also fired guns after the Klan and Nazis began firing.

JACOBS: The Commission was formed two years ago by a community organization with ties to former members of the Communist Workers Party. As a result, official Greensboro withheld its endorsement. The City Council opposed the process but agreed to review the Commission's final report. Greensboro Mayor Keith Holliday has previous said the Commission was being steered by former members of CWP, determined to prove their conspiracy theories.

The Commission's conclusions will likely play into those concerns. With the truth seeking part of the process over, the Commission says it's now up to the community to begin the reconciliation part. That means following the Commission's recommendations, everything from official apologies from the city and the police department, to paying city and county employees a living wage.

For NPR News, I'm Rusty Jacobs.

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