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North Carolina: 30th Anniversary of Ku Klux Klan – Nazi Shooting — No One Served a Single Day in Prison for 5 Killings

Thirty years ago on November 3, 1979 in Greensboro, North Carolina, five were killed as result of an armed attack by members of the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazi Party on a Communist street protest.  The brazen, broad daylight murders resulted in the death of Communist protesters in the street, as armed members of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party pulled rifles out of a caravan of automobiles and shot protesters to death.  In 1980 and 1984, all-white juries acquitted the shooters of all criminal charges.  To date, not a single person has served jail time for the Greensboro, North Carolina killings, despite the fact that the shootings were captured on film.

November 3, 1979 - KKK and Nazis Pull Out Rifles to Kill in Broad Daylight in Greensboro, NC

November 3, 1979 - KKK and Nazis Pull Out Rifles to Kill in Broad Daylight in Greensboro, North Carolina

November 3, 1979 Protesters Shot in the Street in Greensboro, NC

November 3, 1979 Protesters Shot in the Street in Greensboro, North Carolina

Film of the Greensboro November 3, 1979 shootings is available on YouTube.  While incomplete, such film provides documentary evidence of the crimes.  One YouTube video allegedly from the “North Carolina Truth Commission” shows the Communist protesters putting up posters calling for “Death to the  Klan,” and then shows Communist protesters shouting “Death to the Klan,” while a caravan of automobiles goes by.  The caravan drives past the protesters, appears to be harassed, then automobiles pull over, and men jump out start pulling guns out and shooting the protesters.   A second French video on YouTube captures additional footage of the shootings by the Klan and the Nazis, as well as efforts by police to later come to the scene after the fact, and police findings of weapons in KKK automobiles.  The second French video concludes with a “triumphant” rally by the Ku Klux Klan in Greensboro, North Carolina decrying way the Ku Klux Klan was portrayed on the “Jew tube,” and praising the efforts of the Klan in keeping “the apes from Africa” from protesting in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Ku Klux Klan's Triumphant Rally After "Greensboro Massacre"

Ku Klux Klan's Triumphant Rally After "Greensboro Massacre"

There has long been debate among some as to the intent and the nature of the Communist protesters in Greensboro, North Carolina.  The facts remain that it does not matter what their intent, background, or beliefs were — whether they were saints or Stalins — they had the right to protest .  Our universal human rights grant us freedom of speech that should ensure us the right to protest, no matter whether we are liked or disliked.   For those who have felt this was not an atrocity against human rights because it was a Communist protest, they miss the point.  Our universal human rights are universal.  Those are truths that we hold self-evident.  In addition, a nation of law must never tolerate those who murder in broad daylight.

Our condemnation of the acts of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party is no way a defense of Communism, Communist organizations, or those who call for violence.  As the videos show, the Communist protesters called for “Death to the Klan.” Responsible, non-violent organizations know better than to call for “death,” even rhetorically.  Moreover, multiple reports state that some of the Communist protesters may have kicked or struck passing automobiles, and some of the Communist protesters were also reportedly armed.  None of this justifies members of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party pulling out rifles and gunning down protesters in the street.

For the record, Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.) takes a critical view of Communism and its totalitarian practices around the world in seeking to deny our universal human rights.   We have and will continue to protest and struggle against Communist totalitarianism.   Moreover,  I personally am aware of the history of Communist organizations attempting to sow discord and promote violence in America.  In 1979, the year of the Greensboro massacre, I witnessed first-hand the discussions of Communists seeking to promote violence on college campuses as part of undercover research that I did for my investigative newspaper “The Voice,” while I was a student at the Pennsylvania State University.  I have no illusions about Communist organizations.

But in our support for universal human rights in America and around the world, we support freedom of speech, even of what we don’t like and what we don’t agree with.  We support freedom of protest.  When protesters can be shot down in the street in broad daylight in America, and no one is convicted of a crime, we know that we have a problem.  A very serious problem.  And thirty years later, this injustice still has not been made right.

The Greensboro massacre remains a national disgrace for Americans that has been far too easily ignored.  It is past time for our federal authorities to re-examine this case to see if other charges could not be pressed against those who would shoot down protesters in the street.   The idea that members of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party believed that they had a license to kill protesters is something that all Americans must reject.   Ku Klux Klan members, such as the North Carolina KKK’s Virgil Griffin, would like Americans to “shut their mouth” about the Greensboro massacre. Moreover, the American Nazi Party continues to claim their innocence in the November 3, 1979 killings, while blaming them on the FBI.  This same American Nazi Party is holding their own convention on November 7 in South Carolina and has been seeking to build relations with the Ku Klux Klan, claiming to be reaching thousands of Southerners.

Despite what the Klan and Nazis might like, not everyone is going to forget the Greensboro massacre, or forget the culpability of the Klan and Nazis in these broad daylight murders.  In addition to our comments here and an article by Greenboro’s WFMY below, the  Beloved Community Center in Greenboro, NC will be holding a three day conference to remember and find healing from November 4 through 7.

American racial supremacists are the disgrace to Americans that fascists are to Europeans and others in the world.  It is no coincidence that the Klan and the Nazis then and now have worked so closely together.

We need to continue to send a message to the Ku Klux Klan and any other supremacist organization that seeks to undermine our universal human rights: we will refuse to be silent about injustice.   As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We need to send a message that we will continue to be Responsible for Equality And Liberty.

Thirty years is thirty years too long for justice.


YouTube Video of Protest and Violence
French Video with additional footage

November 3, 2009 WFMY reports :  “30th Anniversary of Klan-Nazi Shooting:
— “Greensboro — November 3, 2009 marks the 30th anniversary of a tragic event in Greensboro’s history–the fatal shooting by Ku Klux Klan and Nazi”
— “On the morning of November 3, 1979, protesters from the Communist Workers Party began to assemble in the Morningside Homes community. The group gathered for a march, but it never left the corner of Everitt and Carver streets. At the time, a commission report said police were at least five blocks away.”
— “Gunfire erupted after members of the Klan and Nazi Party grabbed guns from two vehicles. Several protesters were shot. Cesar Cauce was hit with a club before being shot and killed. James Waller, Michael Nathan, William Sampson and Sandi Smith also died that morning. At least 10 others were wounded.”
— “In the aftermath, the shooters were acquitted of all criminal charges by all-white juries in 1980 and again in 1984. In 1985, a civil trial found members of the Greensboro Police Department were jointly liable with the Klan and Nazi members for the death of one victim.”
— “In the end, 30 years after five people were killed, no one served a single day in prison for the crimes. The only amount of justice paid was $350,000 in the civil suit.”
— “In June 2009, the Greensboro City Council issued a statement of regret about the incident. A portion of the statement reads, ‘We, the City Council of Greensboro, North Carolina value the rich diversity of our neighborhoods, celebrate both our similarities and differences as human beings, and pledge our support to help the community heal.’ ”

November 2, 2009 – Greensboro News-Record: “Take time attend events marking Nov. 3, 1979”

November 4 through 7 Conference on Greensboro Massacre

March 6, 2005 – Washington Post: “Seeking Closure on ‘Greensboro Massacre'”

University of North Carolina University Libraries: “November 3, 1979 – Greensboro Killings”

George Mason University Posting of article by JoAnn Wypijewski: “America’s first Truth and Reconciliation Commission is attempting to get North Carolina to face what really caused the 1979 Greensboro Massacre”

Wikipedia reports on “Greensboro massacre”
— “The marchers killed were: Sandi Smith, a nurse and civil rights activist; Dr. James Waller, president of a local textile workers union who had given up his medical practice to organize workers; Bill Sampson, a graduate of the Harvard University School of Divinity; Cesar Cause, an immigrant from Cuba who graduated magna cum laude from Duke University; and Dr. Michael Nathan, chief of pediatrics at Lincoln Community Health Center in Durham, NC, a clinic that helped children from low-income families.”
— “Hostility between the groups flared in July 1979 when protesters disrupted a screening of a pro-white supremacist film, “Birth Of A Nation”, by Ku Klux Klan members in China Grove, North Carolina. Taunts and inflammatory rhetoric were exchanged during the ensuing months. On November 3, 1979 a rally and march of industrial workers and Communists was planned in Greensboro against the Ku Klux Klan. The Death to the Klan March was to begin in a predominantly black housing project called Morningside Homes. Communist organizers publicly challenged the Klan to present themselves and ‘face the wrath of the people.’ During the rally, a caravan of cars containing Klansmen and members of the American Nazi Party drove by the housing projects. A scuffle broke out, whereupon Klansmen and Nazis left their cars and opened fire with shotguns, rifles and pistols. Some marchers were armed and returned fire. Cauce, Waller, and Sampson were killed at the scene. Smith was shot between the eyes when she peeked from her hiding place. Eleven others were wounded. One of them, Dr Nathan, later died from his wounds. Much of the armed confrontation was filmed by four local news camera crews.”

History Channel Reports about the November 3, 1979 Violence:
— “Five members of the Communist Workers Party, participating in a ‘Death to the Klan’ rally in Greensboro, North Carolina, are shot to death by a group of Klansmen and neo-Nazis. Seven others were wounded.”
— “Members of the Communist Workers Party had organized the anti-Ku Klux Klan rally and march and were joined by a group of local African American mill workers. A caravan of cars carrying Klansmen and neo-Nazis arrived to disrupt the march, and videotape shows demonstrators initiating the violence by kicking and striking the Klan and Nazi vehicles. The Klansmen and Nazis then opened fire, shooting six demonstrators. The communists, who were carrying concealed weapons, then returned fire. When the gun battle ended, five demonstrators were dead or dying, and seven were wounded.”
— “In 1980, six Klan and Nazi members were put on trial on murder and rioting charges. During the trial, evidence came to light indicating that the Greensboro police, and perhaps the federal government, were aware of the probability of violence at the rally but did little to prevent it. Edward Dawson, a paid informant for the Greensboro Police Department and former FBI informer in the Klan, had helped plan the massacre and had notified the Greensboro police of the details, while Bernard Butkovich, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) agent undercover in the local branch of the American Nazi Party, had supplied some of the firearms used. When the scheduled time arrived for the Klansman and neo-Nazis to disrupt the march, the tactical squad from the Greensboro Police Department assigned to monitor the march was suspiciously absent.”
— “The six defendants were acquitted on all charges on the grounds that they had fired on the demonstrators in self-defense. In 1984, a federal trial likewise ended in acquittals. In 1985, a North Carolina jury found two Greensboro police officers, five Klansmen and Nazis, and Edward Dawson liable for the ‘wrongful death’ of one of the demonstrators who was killed and ordered them to pay nearly $400,000 in damages. The jury also ruled that there was no conspiracy between the Klan, local police, and the federal government to disrupt the rally or injure the protesters.”

April 14, 1984 — Acquittal in Greensboro

On April 14, 1984, the New York Times reported on the final acquittal in the attempt to press criminal charges stating that:
— “Five members of the Communist Workers Party attending an anti-Ku Klux Klan rally were killed in 1979 when Klan and Nazi toughs drove cars loaded with rifles to the meeting and fired on the demonstrators. A jury in state court, apparently accepting pleas of self-defense despite vivid newsreel film to the contrary, acquitted some Nazis and Klansmen of murder.”
— “Now a Federal court jury has acquitted them of any conspiracy to violate the demonstrators’ civil rights.”
— “The Justice Department, though often criticized for indifference to civil rights, strove valiantly to assert the demonstrators’ rights without embracing their cause. Failure of the Federal prosecution is a setback for the American principle of tolerating even hated ideas. Fortunately for American justice, it is not necessarily the final verdict on the Greensboro affair.”
— “However despised its doctrines, the small group of Communists should have been able to agitate in safety for them and for racial equality and against the Klan. The surprising lack of police protection for the rally gave rise to suspicions, still unresolved, of official connivance and inadequate control of a police informant. There was good reason to expect violence; that a few demonstrators were also armed hardly excuses the absence of police officers. The Workers Party adherents credit the Federal prosecutors with a good-faith effort but fault their superiors at Justice for drawing the indictment too narrowly. It charged the Klansmen and Nazis with racially motivated violence and interference with a racially integrated event. That left the defense free to argue that any violence was motivated not by racial attitudes but by political opposition to Communism. Though it belied a major part of the Klan’s heritage, this argument persuaded the all-white jury.”

Photograph Resources:

YouTube Video of Protest and Violence
French Video with additional footage

Protesters Shot Photographs

Protesters Shot in the Street – Montage – 4 images
Protesters Shot in the Street – 2 images
WFMY Image of Victim – B&W
Man Shot on Front Lawn
Protesters Trying to Get Help for Man Shot on Lawn
Man with Blue Shirt Shot in the Street
Victim in the Grass

Klan – Nazi Gunmen Shooting Protesters in Broad Daylight Photographs

Montage of Gunmen in Action – November 3, 1979
Men Pulling Guns Out of Automobile Trunk
Men with Rifles Shooting Protesters
Another Man Being Shot (Protester on Left; Gunman on Right)
Image of Suspects Being Arrested After Shooting – No Convictions

Ku Klux Klan Post-Massacre Rally Triumphant

Ku Klux Klan Getting Ready for Their Rally
Ku Klux Klan Defends its Attack on Protesters