40 years after the Klan-Nazi massacre in Greensboro

And it's still hard to fathom:

“After the smoke cleared, it was silence,” Clapp would later tell the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which would examine what happened that day and issue a report. “There was a stillness in the air. We knew people were dead.”

Four decades later, many of the wounds from that infamous day — later designated the “Greensboro Massacre” by the North Carolina Historical Society — haven’t healed for those involved and may not in the aftermath of a tragedy that made headlines around the world. Some people continue to blame the victims. Some continue to blame the police.

I remember that day clearly. I watched it happen via news cameras that were on the scene, and it was horrific. One CWP member was chased into a corner of a building, and shot several times from about four feet away. Here's a list of those who died:

During the ensuing gunfire that lasted 88 seconds and was partly captured on videotape by four TV crews, five anti-Klan marchers were killed and 10 others wounded.

Sandra Neely Smith, a 28-year-old nurse and former Bennett College student body president, was among the dead. The youngest, Cesar Vicente Cauce, was a 25-year-old Cuban immigrant who had graduated magna cum laude from Duke University. Their friend, William Evan Sampson, 31, was a graduate of the Harvard Divinity School.

Also dead were physicians Dr. Michael Ronald Nathan, 32, and Dr. James Michael Waller, 36. Nathan was the chief of pediatrics at Durham’s Lincoln Community Health Center. Waller had given up his medical practice to organize workers and later served as president of a local textile workers’ union.

Definitely not a "bunch of thugs," as some right-wingers in the Greensboro blogosphere have chirped about for years. And to say the Greensboro PD "dropped the ball" that day would be a gross understatement:

“They deliberately let them get face to face in the absence of police,” said former civil rights attorney Lewis Pitts, who later won a civil judgment after a jury found members of the Greensboro Police Department, KKK and the neo-Nazi group jointly liable for the wrongful death of one of the people killed.

It is a charge former Mayor Jim Melvin adamantly denies. He blames the Rev. Nelson Johnson — who wasn’t a preacher at the time — for taunting the Klan.

In the years since the report was issued, the city has taken no official action on the 600-page document. And Melvin says there’s no need for the city to apologize for the police.

It was later revealed that a police informant, Eddie Dawson, had warned officers that the Klan had planned to show up at the march.

As Johnson and the others were singing and putting together signs for the march near Everett and Carver streets, police were taking pictures of a cache of guns being loaded into the trunks of a caravan of cars at a small house off Randleman Road.

“They followed them,” said Pitts, the civil rights attorney. “They could have arrested them all right there. They could have arrested them the first mile. They could have arrested them the second mile.”

But they didn't. They let the KKK/Nazi shitheads drive right into a predominantly black neighborhood with a trunk full of guns, and people died. If that's not dereliction of duty, I don't know what would be.

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