November 3rd, 1979. If you have lived in Greensboro for more than a year chances are you have heard this date referenced. There have been plenty of documents published through the years about this event that has come to dominate Greensboro politics and each new publication seems to have new "spin" on the facts and subjective conclusions that now dominate the conversation here. Very few people in our city know the details of that horrible day, the actors and their actions or the chain of events that led up to the confrontation that has been completely mischaracterized as the "Greensboro Massacre". The folks that do know the factual details of the event have tired of talking about it or simply given up on trying to shout over those who benefit from the spin. Yet Greensboro has been made to endure this despicable event even though virtually no one was from this city that participated or initiated it. Worse still, this event still has a profound and divisive effect on our city government and is having a debilitating affect on the health of our city.
I have read a lot of documents on this case; the police reports; the communications log of radio transmissions, the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation report, etc, etc. For those that want a capsulized version of the event minus all rhetoric from either side you can find that here; nchistory.org under Greensboro Shootings. I encourage everyone to read this short version then decide for yourself whether to investigate further. It is important for our current citizens to understand this event and what occurred because in many ways it is the center piece of the left wing extremist playbook that is being used here in Greensboro to drive our city in a direction that is causing poverty, high percentages of government dependency and an increasing problem in attracting companies that will employ our citizens that desperately need jobs.
This issue is not about democrats or republicans, conservative or liberal philosophies. Though philosophies differ between these folks, usually morals and ethics do not. Common ground for compromise usually exists on some level and when that bridge is built communities can thrive. Extremists however differ greatly in morals and ethics and have no intention of trying to cooperate or compromise; it's their way or the highway and they do not care if they destroy a community to achieve their goal. And if (heaven forbid) an extremist view point infiltrates a governing body that already has conflicts of interests or needs a diversion from the community figuring out that their policies do not work it can be a virus that brings hostility to a community; or worse, apathy.
Nelson Johnson is that agent. A leading member of the Worker's Viewpoint Organization in 1979 (later Communist's Workers Party), Johnson has been able to deflect any responsibility from himself or his organization and placed community perceptions of fault on the Greensboro Police Department. He has been at this for over 35 years and has tended to be more successful as time removes those from city government and our population that actually knows the truth. Though he has now become a minister and heads up the political group known as the Pulpit Forum, he has never publicly renounced his communist beliefs and actions. Members and associates of his Beloved Community Center (see previous article on Mr. Subversive) continue to act on his behalf and in a manner that is reminiscent of "Nelson Johnson past", using communist rhetoric and propaganda. Even Mr. Subversive, who was all of four years old at the time constantly and consistently refers to this event when spewing his brand of hatred and misinformation; where do you think he learned all of these misinformed facts? Johnson and his minions have used this event in our history as a political guilt trip and is now to the point that NO politician dares call him out for his misleading accounts. Worse still, they are allowing him to make that event in 1979 entirely about race; and it was not.
A massacre is when an unsuspecting, unarmed group of people are brutally killed or injured with no apparent reason for the attack. Sandy Brook Elementary School, Columbine High School and the recent Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC are examples of a "massacre". In July of 1979 Nelson Johnson led a group of WVO activists and supporters to China Grove, NC to confront a group of Ku Klux Klan supporters because they were watching a segregationist and racist movie entitled "Birth of a Nation". Johnson, Signe Waller and other group activists and supporters had decided that the local opposition to the KKK was not being "demonstrative" enough in challenging this right wing extremist group. They waited outside, protesting, burning a Confederate flag in front of the group and hurling rhetorical insults back and forth. Local law enforcement was able to diffuse the confrontation by convincing the KKK to re-enter the building allowing them to disperse the crowd. WVO members were reportedly armed with bats, sticks and other objects. KKK members responded with threats of guns.
"The CWP is consciously trying to upgrade its' level of militancy to become more adept at combining legal and illegal tactics"- Signe Waller, 1979 (nchistory.org)
For two months rhetoric, threats and insults were hurled back and forth with plans being concocted by Johnson for a "Death to the Klan" rally to be held here in Greensboro. These plans included a written, formal invitation to the KKK to attend (I have a copy) as well as verbal challenges to the Klan televised on local TV news casts. They included deception of the parade route and destination and consistent statements by his group in general and Johnson in particular for the police to "stay away" and to not get involved. A far right wing extremist group of nut bags that has been pursued and challenged for months that has a history of violence has been invited to attend a rally and parade calling for their deaths. To compound it, the hosts are a left wing extremist group of nut bags with a history of violence (regardless of what the Truth and Reconciliation report says) that has demonstrated that they WANT the KKK there after traveling to their turf to issue the challenge. What did they think was going to happen? Five people lost their lives because of this senseless, extremist behavior. Greensboro has endured a black eye because one of the ring leaders stayed here. Two vile, disgusting groups completely void of morals and ethics decided to come to Greensboro and endanger innocent citizens then blame everyone from the police to the city for their inexcusable actions; two groups using our Constitutional First Amendment to spew their own brand of hatred with neither giving a damn about the rest of the Consitution.
How connected is Nelson Johnson? Apparently he has now reached the status with our inept City Manager Jim Westmoreland that he can affect police department discipline or even whether criminal charges make it to court. Though magistrates have found probable cause on cases in which Johnson has come to the aid of defendants in the form of accusations of officers arresting "just because they were black", Westmoreland has actually encouraged charges to be dropped in lieu of being called "bad names" by Johnson. One officer even suffered two days off without pay for an arrest Johnson decided was bad even though the officer cut the defendant a break on an "open and shut" felony charge; does that sound like a white officer wanting to get a black guy? This along with several other similar incidents that have occurred while a man trained in civil engineering occupies a public administrative position has not only caused me to come to the conclusion that Westmoreland is unqualified for his job. It has also made me aware that his fear of Johnson makes him no more than Nelson's female lap dog.
So how does a man with this history of despising the police find his way onto a Community Interview Forum for the recent Chief of Police opening here in Greensboro? The City Manager's office made those appointments. When his candidate was not chosen, did Johnson adhere to the findings of the interview process? Oh no; he held a news conference on the steps of city hall to protest the choice and ended the session with the chant "Greensboro, Ferguson..Ferguson, Greensboro" in reference to an event that occurred in Missouri, insinuating that corruption and race trumped qualifications though the candidate he supported was not qualified.
You don't have to try very hard to find Johnson posing in photo ops regularly with Mayor Vaughn, Councilpersons Hightower, Fox or Abuzuaiter. He seems to be a regular in the offices of city hall. This man with a demonstrated philosophy of divisiveness and extremism has been granted audience in incidents that his history should suggest he have no part in; conflicts of interest seem to matter not.
Perhaps the ultimate demonstration of his influence appears in east Greensboro in the form of a state historical marker denoting "The Greensboro Massacre". 7 of the 9 sitting Council members voted to approve this sign. Two, Hightower and Yvonne Johnson even wrote letters of recommendation to the Historical Sign Commission (I have copies) in support of erecting the sign though both were politically savvy enough not to refer to the incident as the sign depicts. Of course, neither saw fit to recuse themselves from that vote though a documented conflict of interest certainly existed. The application essay for this sign conveniently leaves out all of the details leading up to the "Death to the Klan" rally and the fact that both sides fired several shots. In essence, this sign's existence suggests that Greensboro itself was involved and that one side of the conflict somehow deserves absolution of any wrong doing though they violated virtually every requirement of their parade permit, including not being armed and Johnson meeting with police prior to the parade. The parade even started 37 minutes earlier than agreed to evade police involvement. Again, this was a despicable event caused by two extremist groups that somehow has evolved into legend of a "peaceful" protest interrupted by a group that just showed up and started shooting.
The guilt that is continuously heaped on our community does not promote healing. Greensboro is so politically fractured that growth and prosperity will not return here though other cities in our state seem to have overcome these obstacles. The morale at the Greensboro Police Department is at an all time low, not because of police administrators but due to the absence of any articulable public support from city leaders. As long as opportunistic antagonists have more of a platform and benefit more than citizens these obstacles cannot be overcome. This rhetoric is used to provide smokescreens such as police bashing, to cover up the fact that Greensboro is sitting dead in the water; high poverty, high unemployment, affordable housing issues, high government dependency. Our citizens are currently in a state of hopelessness that any of these things are close to changing as evidenced by 88.5% of registered voters not bothering to vote in the last municipal election. People are moving out. High School graduates are going to college never to return. Graduates of local college and universities are not staying. These things are the result of not only progressive policies but the acceptance and promotion of false extremist's narratives with no one willing to stand and publicly challenge them. A difference of opinion or presentation of evidence is not demeaning or racist regardless of what folks like Nelson Johnson would have you believe; and he has spent the last 35 years shoving it down the Greensboro Police Department's throat. Now, he has the majority of city council members and a city manager in place to back him up.
For my buddy "Mr. Subversive" and all of his very few like minded friends I will leave you and all my readers with one question. From all of the reports I have read from every side and depiction of this event, three things are not in dispute. Nelson Johnson led a group to China Grove on July 8th, 1979 to confront the Ku Klux Klan and continued threats and rhetoric for the next two months. Nelson Johnson formally invited in writing the KKK to attend a "Death to the Klan" rally to be held on November 3rd, 1979 in Greensboro. Nelson Johnson appeared on TV news casts daring the Klan to show up and "face the wrath of the people". If Nelson Johnson does not do any of these three things, would an armed confrontation resulting in 5 deaths have occurred in Greensboro that day?
next: The left wing extremist playbook