On November 3, 1979, Greensboro became the site once again of confrontation and violence. The Communist Worker's Party (CWP)--a small Maoist sect which included among its members Nelson Johnson and at least one other Greensboro activist of the 1960's--had organized a "Death to the Klan" rally. The demonstration represented an effort to provide dramatic focus to an ongoing attempt to build a biracial, class- based struggle against the textile magnates and bankers whom CWP members saw as the primary enemies of social and economic justice. Frustrated by their failure to make rapid strides in mobilizing workers, CWP members hoped that a highly publicized march against the Klan might provide a vehicle to attract new recruits. Consequently, they challenged Klan members to appear at the rally and answer to "the people's" judgment. Instead, Klan and Nazi supporters delivered their own judgment. Arriving with a virtual arsenal of weapons, KKK and Nazi party members--after a brief scuffle--opened fire on CWP followers. Eighty-eight seconds later, five CWP demonstrators lay dead.
At the time, Greensboro's white leaders insisted that the violence had nothing to do with Greensboro itself. Race relations in the city were good, they said. This was simply a case of an enlightened community being victimized by two extremist groups seeking to use the city for their own purposes.
Nine months later, six Klan and Nazi party members were put on trial, charged with first degree murder and a series of lesser crimes, including inciting to riot. Prosecutors relied heavily on videotapes of the slayings which showed, among other things, one defendant pumping