By a 7 to 1 vote, the Greensboro City Council decided to admit they were sorry for an incident that occurred nearly 40 years ago but was remarkably similar to events this weekend’s riots in Charlottesville, Virginia.
According to Greensboro News and Record, The council decided to take action after the violence over the weekend. In 1979, five anti-klam activists took part in a rally in the city advocating “Death to the Klan.” They were shot to death by a group of Klansmen and neo-Nazis and 10 others were injured as the police were unable to protect them.
Councilman Tony Wilkins was the only hold-out but said that he would change his vote later if it was appropriate and only after he reviewed the incident.
Wilkins accused Councilwoman Sharon Hightower, who proposed the motion, a grandstander for the action that he notes took place during an election year. However, Councilwoman Goldie Wells explained that many have waited since the incident for the apology.
“The people voted us in to stand for what is right for the city of Greensboro,” she said.
The City Council issued a statement of regret in 2009 on the anniversary of the day but has never apologized before. A jury found the city as well as members of the Klan liable in a civil suit but the klansmen were acquitted of murder in a criminal case. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission spent two years researching the case and released their findings in 2006. The report blamed the shooters but also the local police and, to a lesser degree, the members of the Communist Workers Party
“This type of tragedy is nothing new,” said Black Lives Matter activist Tessa Kirkpatrick, about Charlottesville. “White supremecy has shaped both cities.”
Joyce Johnson took part in the rally in 1979 and urged the city to “turn the tragedy of 1979 into a triumph for the city of Greensboro.” She is married to Rev. Nelson Johnson, one of the organizers of the “Death to the Klan” rally.
The council will review the 2006 report and issue a more formal note in the future.