2. INJUSTICE AT GREENSBORO
One of the most flagrant miscarriages of justice in American civil
rights history almost went unnoticed.
It started on November 3, 1979, when five Communist Workers Party (CWP)
demonstrators were murdered on the streets of Greensboro, N.C., by members
of the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazi Party. The murders were recorded live
on cameras from four television stations. One year later, the men charged
with the brutal killings were acquitted. The story might have ended
there if it had not been for the Institute for Southern Studies, a private,
nonprofit organization that monitors reports of civil liberties violations.
After its own six-month investigation, the Institute produced evidence
that revealed: Greensboro officials maintained an "intimate alliance"
with the accused; Greensboro police were aware of Klan/Nazi intentions
to disrupt the CWP "Death to the Klan" rally two weeks before
it occurred; the DA acted to "systematically" weaken the government
charge against the Klansmen and Nazis; local government officials, the
Justice Department's Community Relations Service, and other agencies
used "harassment, intimidation and red-baiting" to thwart
legal, non-violent demonstrations and rallies protesting the killings.
It was found that Ed Dawson, a former Klan informer for the FBI, had
not only monitored Klan activities at the request of the Greensboro
police but had "recruited participants for the planned attack on
the CWP demonstrators." It also was learned that Bernard Butkovich,
an agent for the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, had
infiltrated the Nazis during the summer of 1979 and was involved in
planning the confrontation. Neither of these men was called to testify
even though their testimony could have provided the basis for a conviction
on felony murder. A primary criticism was that District Attorney Michael
A. Schlossner "allowed people on the jury who admitted they held
such views as 'it's less of a crime to kill Communists'."
Despite the overwhelming evidence of a miscarriage of justice at Greensboro
and the protests of civil rights groups like the Greensboro Justice
Fund, it was not until March 8, 1982, that the Justice Department announced
it empanelled a federal grand jury to hear evidence about the deaths
of the five demonstrators.
The media's lack of coverage about the Justice Department's failure
to move on this case for more than a year qualifies this for nomination
as one of the "best censored" stories of 1981.
The Institute for Southern Studies, 1981, "The Third of November;
Organizing Notes, Nov/Dec 1981, "Greensboro, North Carolina: Two
Years and No Closer to Justice."