FBI File: Greensboro Massacre
On November 3, 1979, in Greensboro, North Carolina, members of the KKK and the American Nazi Party opened fire on an anti-Klan rally. Five protesters were murdered. No one was ever convicted of a crime.
I asked the FBI via FOIA for its file on this massacre (known as “GREENKIL”), which had previously been released but has never been posted online. I received 48 files totaling 963 megabytes. I combined them into five PDF portfolios of around 200 megs each. Note: These are PDF portfolios, which have the .pdf extension but are actually collections of separate PDFs. Portfolios won’t open online within your browser. Instead, they need to be downloaded first, then opened.
Here’s footage of the demonstration and the killings:
On Nov. 3, 1979, in the absence of a dissuasive police presence, a caravan of white supremacists confronted demonstrators preparing for a “Death to the Klan” rally planned in the cityʼs black Morningside Homes public housing community by the Communist Workers Party (CWP), previously known as the Workers Viewpoint Organization (WVO). In addition to the five demonstrators killed, at least ten others were wounded, and numerous residents and other witnesses were traumatized.
Klan and Nazi members, some of whom were filmed by news cameras as they shot into the crowd, claimed self-defense and were twice acquitted of all criminal charges by all-white juries. After more than two decades, the two criminal trials, and a civil trial that found members of the Greensboro Police Department jointly liable with Klan and Nazi members for the wrongful death of one victim, many in the Greensboro community still did not feel that justice had been served.
Nevertheless, police made decisions
• not to warn the demonstration organizers about the known Klan and Nazi plans to confront and probably provoke physical violence, or that the Klan had obtained a copy of the parade permit;
• explicitly to be five to 20 blocks away, and in fact repeatedly direct officers away from the designated parade starting point, even after it was known that the caravan was heading there;
• among key event commanders not to monitor constantly the situation using hand radios;
• not to stop or even noticeably accompany the caravan as it headed to the starting point where police knew no officers were present;
• not to order tactical units to proceed toward the designated parade starting point in an attempt to get in between the Klan/Nazis and demonstrators, or even to get into standby position, after it was clear the caravan was heading toward the parade;
• not to intervene or stop most of the cars fleeing the scene after it was known that shots had been fired.
Role of GPD Informant Dawson
The role of Eddie Dawson as a police informant within the Klan exceeded that of a typical informant. Dawson made the initial racist, virulently anti-communist speech at the Klan rally designed to incite a confrontation with the WVO; he arranged for the assembly point for Klan and Nazi members prior to going to the parade; he was in regular contact with Klan leader Virgil Griffin to discuss plans to disrupt the parade; he obtained a copy of the parade permit and route; he drove the route with Klansmen the night before the parade; he pointed out the route prior to leaving the Klan assembly point; he rushed people into cars at 11 a.m. to get to the parade. When Klansmen leaving the house asked, “Whoʼs running this thing?” Klan leader Virgil Griffin pointed to Dawson and said, “I guess he is.” Eddie Dawson got in the lead car and led the caravan to the parade starting point.
Informants are by definition party to criminal activity, but we find that the decision to pay an informant and fail to intervene when he takes a leadership role to provoke and orchestrate a criminal act, with the full knowledge of police handlers, is negligent and unconscionably bad policing.