Anti-Klan rally files destroyed, 3 say
AP, newsobserver.com, Feb. 27, 2008
GREENSBORO - Three ministers accused a Greensboro police officer Tuesday of ordering officers to destroy about 50 boxes of police files related to the fatal shootings at an anti-Ku Klux Klan rally in 1979.
The Revs. Cardes Brown, Gregory Headen and Nelson Johnson said an active-duty officer told them he and at least three other officers were told to destroy the records in 2004 or 2005, shortly after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission requested police files related to the shootings.
The News & Record of Greensboro reports that the order came from Sgt. Craig McMinn in the department's Special Intelligence Unit. The ministers didn't identify the officer who provided the information.
Telephone messages left by The Associated Press with McMinn and Chief of Police Timothy Bellamy weren't returned Tuesday.
On the morning of Nov. 3, 1979, a heavily armed caravan of Klansmen and Nazi party members confronted the rally. Five marchers were killed and 10 were injured.
Those criminally charged were later acquitted in state and federal trials. The city and some Klan members were found liable for the deaths in civil litigation.
The Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its findings in 2006, after spending two years researching the shootings and surrounding events. Its report placed most of the blame for the violence on Greensboro police who knew the white supremacists planned to attend the "Death to the Klan" march.
But the report also found fault with the Klan and Nazi members who opened fire and the activists who underestimated the danger posed by verbal baiting of the Klan.
The commission, a seven-member panel Johnson helped create, has recommended that the police department and city officials apologize for the department's role in the shootings. Johnson, who didn't sit on the panel, helped organize the rally three decades ago and witnessed the violence.
The commission had neither subpoena power nor the ability to grant amnesty, though organizers said its intent was to heal the community. It was modeled after truth commissions in South Africa and Peru.
The panel included members of local faith, race relations and community activism organizations, as well as a retired corporate attorney, a consultant for nonprofit organizations and a professor of education at N.C. A&T State University.
Johnson is now with Faith Community Church. Brown of the Light Baptist Church is president of the NAACP branch in Greensboro, and Headen is from Genesis Baptist Church.