Forrester on T&R

Also unposted (now up, thanks Mike Fuchs) from today’s printed N&R is an opinion column on the T&RC report by former city councilman/county commissioner Chuck Forrester.

Although Forrester dismisses the report as “…boring, over-reaching, predictable, socialist drivel“, and that only “…people who hate America will love it.”, it is obvious that he took the time to read it cover to cover and did some research of his own.

He points out some errors of exclusion that further bolsters the widely accepted notion that the CWP, Klan and Nazis were responsible for what happened that day and got what they deserved.  He also rehashes the fact that Nelson Johnson asked the police to stay away and that, hey, the police were just doing Johnson’s bidding.  No arguments there because all of that is basically true.  But toward the end of the column, his take caused me to see something I’d not considered before regarding the police.

Forrester states, accurately, that “…26 police officers were assigned to cover the “Death to the Klan March“… but then he avoids an operational reality of how the police coordinated their responses then and still operate today: For that many officers to have been ”assigned to cover” the march, but then for all of them to have successfully, and undisputedly, avoided their assignment, some level of planning and radio communication had to occur.  Suggesting otherwise is tantamount to accusing the police of ineptitude and incompetence.  

Common sense tells us that such wholesale non-presence by the police, especially when they knew trouble was brewing, just couldn’t have happened by chance.  Common sense further says that such an overwhelming non-presence must have been a coordinated, communicated effort.. not happenstance.  Forrester even confirms that the police were highly connected that day when he points out that: “…half of them, in nine police cars arrived on the scenewithin 60 seconds” of the radio report of shots having been fired.  The balance of the officers, he says, again accurately, arrived, “…in intervals of a few seconds…” following the arrival of the first nine cars.  But then Forrester concludes that, “…one can easily argue they should have been there earlier”, but then he writes, “…no one can say they conspired (def.) not to be.”

Actually, I think Forrester inadvertantly makes a case that, in fact, they did.

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  1. Posted June 28, 2006 at 10:13 am | Permalink
  2. John D. Young
    Posted June 28, 2006 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    The third trial in 1985 dealt for many weeks with all the arguments for a police conspiracy and the conspiracy was fully rejected by the jury. The Commission in its full report found no “proof” for a police conspiracy. What we still have are a lot of unsupported opinions about the police role on Nov. 3rd. David, you even pulled out an opinion about the police from Forrester’s piece. The police role around Nov. 3rd remains unintelligible and ripe for all types of interpretations especially when the violent behavior of both groups is properly considered.

    What we also have even after the full report (which is significantly more thorough than the more ideologically based and sometimes unsupported Executive Summary) is no definitive understanding of shots 3, 4 and 5. So the three juries views that the first two Klan shots were likely “warning shots” fired because their cars were being hit remains a reasonable conclusion. It is also reasonable to conclude along with the three juries that the Klan/Nazis did not go to the trunk of Milano Caudle’s Ford Fairlane and remove weapons until after the CWP first showed weapons in the intersection during the stick fight. Jim Waller pulled a shotgun from Tom Clark’s pickup and Bill Sampson pulled out his pistol. The juries appeared to have believed that one of the shots 3, 4 and 5 came when Waller and Klansman Roy Toney were fighting for control of Waller’s shotgun. They also appear to believe that the other two shots in the 3, 4 and 5 cycle were likely fired by Bill Sampson’s .38-caliber pistol. The report fails to specifically tell us that the Klan/Nazis entered the intersection for fist and stick fighting and only got weapons out after they saw that the CWP were armed. It is at this point the deadly shooting begins.

    In the core of the Commission’s report (not in the Executive Summary) the jury trials find some significant support. Even with the Commission’s full report a jury could have reasonable doubt about the murder intentions of the Klan on Nov. 3rd. So after all this work how one views this full report has a great deal to do with each of our own ideologies. The one question that is never answered by the report is — Who goes to a social justice rally and march with guns? I have been in many marches in the ’60s and at marches against the War in Iraq but I have never seen a gun. Would deadly violence have occurred on Nov. 3rd if the CWP did not have guns? In the core report is information to show that both the Klan/Nazis and the CWP were mutually responsible for the violence on Nov. 3rd.

  3. Posted June 28, 2006 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    But John… none of that explains why the police, either individually or collectively, made a decision to stay away from the action. The only reason for their absence that I can discern is because Nelson Johnson didn’t want them there.

    Well, I’m almost as well known as a “community activist” now as Johnson probably was in 1979 and I’m going to have a “Death to the T&R Commission” march starting next Thursday at noon beginning at 150 Country Club Drive and continuing down Elm Street to City Hall.

    I have requested that the police stay the hell away because I think their presence would hamper my efforts at garnering support for my cause and because I feel they would be a disruptive influence. I and the police know that my group’s opposition, the normally-gun-toating Simkins PAC, has threatened to quell my efforts and is planning to hurl eggs at marchers who will be coming out in support of revealing the T&RC as a sinister Commie plot.

    Although we have a valid parade permit for the march, we may change the starting point for the demonstration to someplace up on Sunset Dr, but the police have an informant within the “TRC Rules the World” faction that communicates with them hourly so they will know what’s happening with that.

    Do you think the police would honor my “stay away” request?

  4. John D. Young
    Posted June 28, 2006 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    David, I did say the police behavior that day was unintelligible. But people, including the Commission, with all the facts have been unable to move from there to a conspiracy. The fact that the CWP hated the police is no secret and the feeling was no doubt mutual. Nelson Johnson did make a statement during a Nov. 2nd press conference for the police to stay out of our way and that, as Forrester said, is repeated in the Police Administrative Report presented later in Nov. 1979. Some in the CWP indicated in their books that during the planning for Nov. 3rd that the police might incite a violent episode during the march.

    You and others are definitely right in saying that the police low profile plan can now be seen as part of some institutional racism that did not provide proper security for the residents of Morningside Homes. The police folks who organized this low profile response may have actually thought that their presence could have created more conflict. We know today that if they thought that they were dead wrong. And we know they would have been out in full force on Country Club Drive to cover all the bases and protect the bankers and doctors.

    The report mentions an anti-Klan event in Decatur, Alabama in May 1979 but it does not go on and fully describe that event. More details about Decatur will be coming soon from some other folks doing detailed research but Decatur had demonstrators, Klan, and lots of police and still serious violence occurred. At that event were several key Greensboro CWP members who got a first hand look at the violence from this type of anti-Klan event. Police in this case could not stop the violence. For a quick look see — “2 Klansmen and a Black Women are Shot in a Street Clash in Alabama”, New York Times, May 26, 1979.

    Even some of the police folks who testified at the T&R public hearings clearly disagreed with the low profile plan but obviously some in leadership thought that an active police presence could add fuel to the fire. One of the Nazi shooters, Roland Wayne Wood, in his testimony said that the CWP and the Klan both “played” the police. He said the Klan/Nazis and the CWP were both out for publicity, increase membership and martyrdom on Nov. 3rd. Of course in hindsight we can clearly see that the police should never have let these two violent groups meet in a residential neighborhood and especially they should never of allowed these two groups to “play” them.

    But again all of us are just floundering around attempting to rationally explain the police behavior of Nov. 3rd and it seem to be an impossible task — but the easy explanation of a conspiracy needs a little proof that has never surfaced.

  5. Posted June 29, 2006 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    I agree with your points. Juxtaposing today’s social/political climate on events of ’79 is an exercise that has to take into account the fact that attitudes and perceptions have dramatically changed in the ensuing years – and that is a good thing.

    As you say, in hindsight it is easy to see where mistakes were made (if not conspiracy). But nevertheless, it seems that most everyone agrees that mistakes WERE made on the part of official Greensboro in the lead-up to the confrontation. Those mistakes were, at least partially, to blame for the current perception that no one was covering Morningside residents’ backs that day. From my read, they were relegated to pawn status by all of the players.

    If just that simple admission, “mistakes were made”, can be uttered to those residents by official Greensboro, maybe they will consider that truth to be enough of a reconciliation. As for the Klan/CWP/Nazis – I’m not convinced they are owed a “mistakes were made” or similar statement because I agree that they “played” the police, just like the statement you cited. They are not innocents. The neighborhood residents, however, are.

  6. John D. Young
    Posted June 29, 2006 at 7:32 am | Permalink


    I agree with you. The City of Greensboro would be wise to acknowledge that “mistakes were made” by not sufficiently protecting the residents of the Morningside community. I think it was also a serious mistake for the City to give a parade permit for that area. If a march was permitted it should have been downtown and not in a residential community. All three groups involved that day treated the people of Morningside Homes with reckless disregard.

One Trackback

  1. [...] David Hoggard: …”(Chuck) Forrester states, accurately, that “…26 police officers were assigned to cover the “Death to the Klan March”… but then he avoids an operational reality of how the police coordinated their responses then and still operate today: For that many officers to have been “assigned to cover” the march, but then for all of them to have successfully, and undisputedly, avoided their assignment, some level of planning and radio communication had to occur. Suggesting otherwise is tantamount to accusing the police of ineptitude and incompetence.”… [...]