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Anti-Klan Protesters March Through Downtown Greensboro

June 6, 1987

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) _ About 600 anti-Ku Klux Klan protesters marched through downtown Greensboro on Saturday singing ″We Shall Overcome″ in a demonstration to counter a Klan march planned for Sunday.

The Klan march would be the first major Klan activity in Greensboro since the 1979 confrontation with Communists Workers Party members that left five CWP members dead.

The anti-KKK protesters marched inside a police cordon for about 10 blocks, using the same route that will be used by the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in their membership march, and held a rally before the end of their two- hour demonstration.

″I’m glad the Klan came to town,″ the Rev. Maurice Wilson said. ″When they came to town, we got off our apathy. When the Klan came to town, the differences between us became less important than our similarities.

″And just as surely as they’re going to come to town, they’re going to leave town.″

Carroll Crawford, grand dragon of the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, predicted about 200 people would attend Sunday’s march and rally.

City Manager William Carstarphen, who had drawn criticism for issuing a parade permit to the Klan, was one of those leading Saturday’s two-hour march and rally. City Councilman Earl Jones, also in the march, said the Klan’s decision to march in Greensboro had backfired by drawing the city together in opposition.

″Your presence here says loud and clear this is not Klan country,″ Dr. Tommie Young, one of the march organizers, said at a rally at Governmental Plaza.

The marchers paused for five minutes at the F.W. Woolworth Store where the lunch-counter sit-in protest began in the 1960s at the start of civil rights drives across the South.

The marchers included groups representing unions, people opposed to U.S. involvement in Nicaragua, socialists and many not affiliated with any political group.

The Rev. John Mendez of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Winston-Salem made the only mention of the 1979 confrontation.

″Their killers are walking around free because of continuing institutionaliz ed racism that exists in this country,″ Mendez said.

″The only reason the Ku Klux Klan can continue to run around wild and untamed in the streets is because racism is real and alive from the government to the police force ... and has found sanction in the White House.″

Signe Waller, wife of Dr. James Michael Waller, a pediatrician who was one of the five killed in 1979, said ″I groaned″ when she heard the Klan would march Sunday.

″I think that’s just a human response. The other human response is that when people come together who want to end social and economic injustice, I want to be there to be counted,″ she said.

During Sunday’s Klan march, about 1,000 people are expected to attend a Greensboro Peace Festival and Love Rally for Racial Unity in a park about two miles from downtown, organizers said.

The Nov. 3, 1979, clash between Klansmen and the Communist Workers Party came as a crowd gathered for a ″Death To The Klan″ rally. Gunfire erupted after a caravan of Klansmen and American Nazis drove into the area of Morningside Homes where the group was gathering.

Six Klansmen and Nazis were acquitted of murder charges in a 1980 trial that was one of the longest in the state’s history. Nine Klansmen and Nazis were acquitted of conspiracy charges in federal court four years later.

After a 13-week trial of a $48 million civil suit in 1985, a federal jury in Winston-Salem ordered eight Ku Klux Klansmen, Nazis and police officers to pay damages to the wife of Dr. Michael Nathan, one of the five people killed during the rally.

Four of the defendants also were ordered to pay damages for the assault on another man who was paralyzed in the shooting, and two defendants were ordered to pay damages for an assault on another injured man. The jury acquitted 45 Klansmen, Nazis, police and federal agents of conspiracy charges in the same trial.

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