The Massacre That Spawned the Alt-Right

Forty years ago, a gang of Klansmen and Nazis murdered five communists in broad daylight. America has never been the same.

The massacre immediately raised questions about why Greensboro police had not been present to prevent the violence. In this 1981 report, the Durham-based Institute for Southern Studies demanded a federal investigation of the city — even as it voiced skepticism of the  U.S. Justice Department by calling it “a fickle friend of politically unpopular radicals.” | courtesy of authors

“Death to the Klan!” On Saturday, November 3, 1979, that chant swept over Morningside Homes, a mostly black housing project in Greensboro, North Carolina, as dozens of protesters—some donning blue hard hats for protection—hammered placards onto signposts and danced in the morning sun. The American left had largely given up on communism by then, but these demonstrators were full-on Maoists. . . . . .

The communists planned to begin their march at noon, moving from the housing project to a local shopping center. But just after 11:20, a caravan filled with real Klansmen and Nazis surprised them, snaking through the neighborhood’s narrow byways. As the protesters stood their ground, a man in a white T-shirt leaned out the passenger window of a canary-yellow pickup truck, and yelled, “You asked for the Klan. Now you got ‘em!” The station wagon behind him carried four Nazis. Seven more vehicles followed, carrying nearly 30 more men, including an Imperial Wizard of the Klan.

What happened next took just 88 seconds, but still reverberates 40 years later.

For the entire story: Read Politico Magazine

Top: Nazi leader Harold Covington holds a news conference in 1980 praising the acquittal of six Klansmen and Nazis charged with the slaying of five Communists. Bottom: KKK leader Virgil Griffin marches with other Klansmen around the North Carolina State Capitol in 1982 to protest the imprisonment of a white man who bombed a black-owned newspaper in 1973. | Getty Images

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