Skip to comments.N.C. Hearing Opens on 1979 Klan Killings (imperial wizard set to speak Saturday)
Posted on 07/15/2005 8:44:05 PM PDT by Libloather
N.C. Hearing Opens on 1979 Klan Killings
By TIM WHITMIRE, Associated Press Writer
32 minutes ago
Signe Waller, right, is comforted by Cory Wechler, a friend, on stage as she reads her prepared statement, Friday, July 15, 2005, during the public hearing of the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Greensboro, N.C. Waller was at the November 3, 1979 anti-Ku Klux Klan rally when a violent confrontation between Communist Workers Party members and the Ku Klux at Morningside Homes in Greensboro, left five CWP members dead, including her husband Dr. Jim Waller. (AP Photo/Lynn Hey)
GREENSBORO, N.C. - The widow of a communist labor organizer who died when Ku Klux Klan members opened fire at a workers' rally more than 25 years ago charged Friday that city and federal law enforcement knew the Klan planned violence but allowed the "government-sanctioned killings" to go forward.
Signe Waller spoke Friday at a public hearing held by the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission, an effort modeled on similar commissions in South Africa and Peru.
"It appears to me that a death squad of terrorists was normalized in this city long before Sept. 11, 2001," Waller told commissioners.
Commission organizers say their effort seeks to uncover the full story behind the shootings, which they believe has not been told, and to seek healing and "restorative justice."
But leaders of this central North Carolina city of 223,000 have refused to endorse the commission and its hearings, with many saying they fear the effort will stir up old animosities.
Five people were killed and another 10 injured when members of the Klan and the American Nazi Party opened fire on a "Death to the Klan" march through a Greensboro neighborhood on Nov. 3, 1979. The march was organized by the Communist Workers Party.
Several Klansmen were acquitted of murder charges at a state trial. Virgil Griffin, a Klan member from suburban Charlotte, was acquitted at a federal trial in 1984 after being charged with conspiracy to interfere with a federal investigation.
A civil trial found the Klan, the American Nazi Party and the Greensboro Police Department jointly liable for the wrongful deaths of the five people killed. The city paid $350,000.
Griffin and Gorrell Pierce, who at the time was Grand Dragon of the Federated Knights of the KKK, were among those slated to speak Saturday.
Along with her husband, Dr. Jim Waller, Signe Waller was a leader in efforts to unionize North Carolina textile workers. She said threatened government and corporate leaders used the KKK and its allies in the American Nazi Party as union-busters.
After the shootings, Waller said, government officials conspired to paint the incident as a "gang rumble" between extremists at opposite ends of the political spectrum.
She also alleged that Greensboro police and agents from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms knew from white supremacist informants that violence was planned for that day. She said Greensboro police gave a KKK informant a copy of the route for the march and a planned rally, then stayed away.
Waller's claims were echoed by Paul Bermanzohn, who was shot in the head and still walks with a severe limp. He urged commissioners to investigate governmental involvement in the shootings.
"It's not too much to think that those who would want revolutionaries out of the way would resort to violence," he said.
Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission member Muktha Jost, speaks with Dr. Paul Bermanzohn during a break Friday, July 15, 2005, in Greensboro, N.C., at the public hearings of the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Bermanzohn was critically wounded on November 3, 1979, at an anti-Ku Klux Klan rally that turned violent between Communist Workers Party members and the Klan at Morningside Homes in Greensboro, N.C., leaving five Communist Workers Party members dead. He was one of two survivors to speak to the Commission on Friday. (AP Photo/Lynn Hey)">
GREENSBORO -- Virgil Griffin, an imperial wizard with a Ku Klux Klan chapter west of Charlotte, who was present at the 1979 Klan-Nazi shootings, is slated to appear Saturday before the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
City officials were informed on Wednesday of the Klansman's scheduled testimony for the first of three two-day hearings to be hosted by the independent commission.
A full list of additional speakers for the hearing, which begins Friday and runs through Saturday, should be released by the commission today, its spokeswoman said.
Griffin could not be located for comment.
"We hope that all the people who give statements will be listened to with respect and calmness," said spokeswoman Joya Wesley. She declined to comment on who else was scheduled to speak.
City officials expressed some concern there could be violence, given the nature of the commission's investigation into the events surrounding Nov. 3, 1979.
Five people died and another 10 were injured when gunfire interrupted an anti-Klan demonstration that day in the city's Morningside Homes neighborhood. Several Klansman were acquitted of murder charges in the ensuing trial.
Griffin was acquitted of federal charges in 1984, indictments that included conspiracy to interfere with a federal investigation.
Modeled after similar efforts in places such as South Africa and Peru, the Greensboro commission evolved from a movement to examine the day's events.
"These hearings are going to open a lot of eyes," said Mark Sills, executive director of the nonprofit FaithAction and one of seven commissioners looking into the events. "A lot of folks will realize for the first time how serious we are about having an inclusive process."
About 20 police officers will be on standby if hostility arises among the various groups expected to show for the hearing.
"We'll be in position if anything were to happen," said Greensboro police Lt. Brian James. "What we're hoping is that it's nothing more than what it's intended to be, a hearing. At this point we're not anticipating any problems."
The weekend hearings will not include time for public comment to speakers.
Council member Florence Gatten, who has opposed the truth commission's work, said she merely wants testimony to come and go smoothly. Gatten compared the Klan's visit to what city leaders felt in 1979.
"We never wanted an incident then and we don't want an incident now," she said.
And that's part of the rub another council member said he has with Griffin's visit. The "imperial wizard" himself may not cause a stir, but fellow white supremacists might cause trouble.
"Who all is coming with him? You don't know," said council member Tom Phillips, a vocal opponent of the commission. "I don't understand what they're doing to start with and don't know what they want to gain.
"It's nuts to me."
Commies have no problem with violence. They do, however, get pretty upset when someone else takes the same attitude.
I have no sympathy for the Klan, and equally no sympathy for these commie rats, who have far more ability to get their way.
And I'm sure the Commies were just oooooooooooooooooooh so peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaceful and intended no harm to anyone. What a crock!
What happened in Greensboro was one bunch of extremists got the upper hand on another bunch of extremists, and the PC extremists, ie, ones the libs love....the Commies, had done to them what they wanted to to do the non-PC, ie, the Klan and Nazis, extremists.
Sounds like evolution in action to me. Commies get killed, life goes on. Say you want to kill someone else, you better expect to have them come after you. The Reds were asking for it....no "reconciliation" needed.
The only downside is that it was a bunch of yahoos in bedsheets who whacked the Commies.....shame it couldn't have been someone admirable.
Is this just a propaganda stunt, or a visit to the pitty potty by Marxists?
The commies & the Klan deserve each other. One quick way to clean up America is lock all of them up in the same prison, look the other way, and allow these hate groups to bump each other off.
Sounds like the Commies were advocating violence and murder.
The response was provoked by the tone of the Communist rally.
If the Black Panthers opened fire on a "Death to Niggers" march, would anyone be saying that the Klan's march under a banner of violence was protected speech and that such a response was out of the realm of possibility?
Vigilantism is never right but if you preach violence, you had better be prepared to engage in a fight.
Oh. I thought this thread was about Robert Byrd (D). Why didn't they ask him to speak?
Terrorists? If there was any consistency in the media, the Klan would be called "insurgents" and the press would wonder when the quagmire of the Civil War was finally going to end.
Sheets Byrd was only a Kleegle, not an Imperial Wizard. Don't know what the difference is but obviously those in the media don't equate the two.
They just are NOT ever going to let this die, are they?
"Revolutionaries" revolt. That is an act of violence. Look at the American Revolution.
"Innovators" use their minds to design new things. The "industrial revolution" was not really a revolution. It was a period of technical innovation.
Again, when you call for violent overthrow of an organization or government, you can expect reprisal.
Any klan rally they've had here, a couple of guys in bedsheets show up to talk and all the peacenik-nonhaters try and attack them.
Bomb throwing commies have been in this country since WWI. They won't let ANYTHING go.
The klan offered their support to the ATF during the Waco seige and no one in the media or government ever commented how odd that was.
Nope. Never, ever, ever, ever, never, ever, ever, NEVER!
Senator Byrd will be testifying at 9, 10, 11, 12, 2, 3 and 4 o'clock. That is just the first day. Second, third and fourth will be much the same.
Their reactions were so idiotic and juvenile.
Yesssss, PC was already begun in San Francisco.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
This is about the South African body.
For similar bodies in other countries, see List of truth and reconciliation commissions.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was a court-like body assembled in South Africa after the end of Apartheid.
Anybody who felt they had been a victim of violence could come forward and be heard at the TRC. Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty from prosecution. The hearings were national and international news and many sessions were televised on national TV. The TRC was a crucial component of the transition to full and free democracy in South Africa and, despite some flaws, is generally regarded as very successful.
We are people from around the world, working together to form a united community of many cultures. We are Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and Unitarian. We are native born Americans and we are refugees and immigrants from all parts of the world. We speak many different languages. We are white and black and all of the colors of the human family. We are your neighbors, and very possibly we are part of your family. We would like for you to join us!
Our mission is to form a united community of many cultures
Check out the list of sponsoring orgs/churches.
3. WCC Decade to Overcome Violence; Decade to Overcome Violence; Clergy Leadership Network; World Council of Churches; National Council of Churches ... FaithAction.Blogspot.com [Found on Google, Yahoo!]
Calendar of Events
SF Bay Area Indymedia Calendar
Progressive Spiritual Movement
Christian Alliance for Progress
The Rockridge Institute
Progressive Democrats for America
God's Politics, by Jim Wallis
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy
Social Justice Ministries
Covenant Network of Presbyterians
San Francisco Presbytery
SF Presbytery Peacemaking Task Force
WCC Decade to Overcome Violence
Decade to Overcome Violence
Clergy Leadership Network
World Council of Churches
National Council of Churches
Evangelicals for Social Action
Fellowship of Reconciliation