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Apr 23, 2006


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Your column was totally on target. My question is, in light of the Council's reluctance to support (endorse, whatever term they want to use) the Commission's work, are there any conclusions to be made about what's happening with the GPD investigations and the Council's own issues regarding trust, leadership, and race in the community? I realize the events in the GPD occurred before the Commission's request of support from the Council, but unfortunately what happened (or didn't) in Wray's administration has become only part of the issue. The Council's reaction to the allegations have taken on a life of its own. Do you think that had the Council chosen to support the Commission, it would have made a difference in where we are today? I guess I'm thinking more of a mindset that would have been little less "protecting in the clinches."

Forever hopeful

Ed Cone

To be clear: The Commission did not request an endorsement from the Council.

The Project -- the support group -- did.

That's part of the problem here.


Yes, you're right. I'm just wondering if we had a Council open to that process, how would their thinking be different in THIS situation.

Ed Cone

As I've written before, the Council's attitude on this process has been beyond disappointing.

But again, the request to Council did not come from the Commission, or on the Commission's schedule. Nelson Johnson's group presented it, with disastrous results.

sean coon

ed, "two extremist groups?" really? the rhetoric of the CWP is equal to the historically violent behavior of the kkk?

Ed Cone

Sean, is it that simple an equation, where there has to be some sort of parallel history to apply the same general designation?

I have no trouble with the label "extremist group" for the CWP.

Do you?

If you wouldn't apply that label after reading John Young's article, what label would you use?

sean coon

i'll go ahead and read john's article.


Extremist... hmmm... I take it then Ed, that you don't want the death of the Klan?

sean coon

i just read the article. there's no doubt that the CWP pushed an extreme rhetoric -- most noticably on the national front -- but "death to the klan" isn't a very extreme position in my mind, then or now. it's pretty much spot on.

now, whether a *physical* confrontation with the kkk was planned by the CWP -- moving the organization beyond one of extreme rhetoric to extreme violence (and into the category i place the klan) -- or it simply unfolded out of pure naivety, we'll never know. in the end, it was klansmen that killed 5 *unarmed* people... on videotape, no less... and got off clean.

i realize the TRC is about mending the past, promoting an open dialog, etc., but the one fact that i'm absolutely sure of is that the shooters should be rotting in jail right now.

Ed Cone

Anon,The world would be a better place without the KKK. That does not mean that a group opposing the KKK cannot itself be extremist in its rhetoric and practices. You are trying to set up false logic where taking the honest measure of the CWP means supporting the Klan.

Sean, You've changed the subject from the extremisim of the CWP to the events and aftermath of 11/3/79.
The fact that the CWP had extreme rhetoric, sought a violent confrontation with the Klan in China Grove just months before Greensboro, etc., does not mean they should have been unprotected by the police or the justice system. They were not all unarmed, by the way.

sean coon

no, actually i didn't change the subject. i agreed with you that the CWP had an extreme position and talked an extreme game. what i don't agree with you is that they were an extremely *violent* group, anywhere near the same neighborhood as the KKK.

which of the 5 killed were armed?

Ed Cone

Obviously the CWP did not have a century-long history of violence like the Klan. Nobody suggested that.

Again, nobody deserved to get shot, or to have their killing unpunished.

But if the commission is going to fulfill its stated goal of providing an honest portrait of the participants, then it cannot come back with a whitewashed version that says a peaceful group of labor organizers were targeted because they were a threat to the power structure.

The rhetoric of the CWP -- its extremism -- is a critical element in deconstructing that narrative. The facts seem to show that the group was perceived as extremist within the labor movement, and was not successful or even particularly focused on unionizing the mills.

As for the marchers being armed, Jim Waller was said to have been taking a shotgun from the bed of a pickup truck, and at least three other marchers were said to have had handguns.

Elizabeth Wheaton

From testimony and evidence in all 3 trials:

Jim Waller grabbed a shotgun during the stick fight which sent the Klan & Nazis (other than those who were struggling with Waller over the gun) back to their cars to get their own guns.

During this time, Bill Sampson began firing his .357--at least 3 shots.

Although Sandi Smith did not fire a gun, Claire Butler, who was standing next to her, fired a handgun several times which drew David Matthews's shotgun fire, a single pellet of which hit Smith in the temple (not between the eyes as the CWP still maintains).

Dori and Allen Blitz also fired handguns.

Sean, you are right. None of this excuses the Klan and Nazis. When they fled from the stick fight they could have just jumped in their cars and driven away. Even after years of studying this case, I remain as bewildered as anyone that the jury could have acquitted. I too wish it had been otherwise and that those guys were facing their old age in prison.

And I too share the hope that the T&R commission will come forth with the kind of report that will help the entire community begin a genuine healing process.

sean coon

crazy stuff. all of it. if certain members of the CWP came packing and pulled weapons first, what followed was bound to happen. i mean, c'mon, we're talking about scrapping with an organization that lynch and assasinate people! this is the naivety i spoke of, yet on a much more *extreme* level.

i do agree that the complete picture of the CWP needs to be painted for the record. obviously, i only had a small picture myself. that being said, i still have a gut feeling that regardless of what their fearless national leader, Jerry Tung, would say, this small group of protestors were probably all over the map regarding their individual goals for the day (and possibly beyond).

and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, justice absolutely failed this community.


No Ed, I'm trying to determine what about the WVO you consider extreme... so if it isn't their wish for death to the Klan, then what is it?

Ed Cone

Anon, the CWP/WVO did spring into existence with the 11/3/79 Death to the Klan rally, nor was death to the Klan their primary message for much of their history.

Their rhetoric, actions, and plans are detailed in John Young's article.

If this was as simple as agreeing on the malevolence of the Klan, well, it would be pretty simple. But the commission has taken on a broader task than making statements of the obvious. For that I applaud them.


Ed, I'm still trying to figure out why you call the CWP 'extreme'.

As suggested I read Young's article again:

Here is his evidence he presents: none of which demonstrates evidence of a pattern of extreme violence.

1) The CWP was more about party recruitment then textile unions... (OK, so what, is this 'extreme'?)

2) They were an Authoritarian organization (again, not extreme...)

3) the tv footage shows 20 marchers, whereas the CWP claimed 100

4) the parade placed local residents at risk

5) the CWP was hostile to police on Nov 3

6) Some CWP were armed and they fired 14-16 shots

7) The CWP called for armed struggle

8) Young also quotes the leader of the national CWP movement calling for:
- social change with a minimum of bloodshed

- sponsoring militatnt anti-klan events

- that the confrontation at China Grove was a good format

- he also said that "the party itself can only be forged by blood–-by sacrificing the most sacred of all things — our lives"

I would argue that there is not a single piece of evidence of violence (extremist or otherwise) in any of this. Certainly nothing prior to Nov 3rd.

So again, I wonder why you characterize the CWP on Nov 3rd as extremist?

Ed Cone

"I wonder why you characterize the CWP on Nov 3rd as extremist."

You keep trying to box this neatly into Nov 3, but the Commission says it wants context and background. Thus, the events of Nov 3 are not the only issue here, nor are they the only lens through which to view the group.

These things fit a reasonable definition of "extremist," at least in my view: A group that spoke in terms of forging itself by blood and the sacrifice of lives, with members who claimed to peaceful union organizers but said their real goal was to prepare for revolution, who talked about seizing state power and emulated Maoist organizing techniques, and who saw violent confrontration as a legitimate means of protest.

Their rhetoric was extreme. Their stated political goals were extreme.

That doesn't mean they deserved to die. It doesn't mean that the Klan is a good thing.

But it does mean that an accurate portrait of the WVO/CWP would depict a group that defined itself and its goals and tactics in extreme terms.

Just the facts, ma'am

"the CWP came packing and pulled them first"??
Hold the phone, people! This "fair and balanced" thing is going too far. We are doing some un-educating of Sean. Let's be clear--regardless of what Liz Wheaton implies, there is NO dispute, not from the Klan or their esteemed counsel or the FBI, about the fact that it was the Klan who fired first.

Were the CWP naive? Yes. "Extremely" naive? Yes. Ideologues to the point of obnoxiousness? Probably. Self important? Yep. Hard to work with? Sounds like it. Did they ignore the concerns of their own members? Apparently. (hmmm this is starting to sound like some other political parties I know. Shall we hang them out to dry also?) Should they be held to account for these transgressions? Absolutely.

But while we are couselling moderation--let us not get so carried away in our zeal to be "balanced" that we equate naively aggressive rhetoric with actual acts terrorism. Its better to BE balanced than to LOOK balanced.

Ed Cone

Huh, that's odd -- "Anon" and "Just the facts" are posting from the same IP address.

What a coincidence.

Just the facts, ma'am

Nice Dodge! Is that your usual tactic of silencing posters who don't agree with you?

Why dont we just stick to the topic at hand? Or are we not really having a discussion about the truth? Would you prefer threatening to out me?

Boy, you're right, this blogging stuff is fun! I love a free marketplace of ideas.

Ed Cone

No dodge, I already answered your "Anon" post about extremism to the best of my ability (again). If you don't think the definition of "extremist" is met by the CWP, or that the existence of one noxious and violent extremist group doesn't rule out the existence of opposing extremist groups, well, I guess we'll have to disagree.

Your last post seems directed to Liz Wheaton, I'm no expert on the ballistics or timelines.

Just wondering, why change names in the middle of the conversation?

sean coon

i've never heard anyone say anything about the CWP firing first. i threw that out there as a worst case scenario of extremism.

one thing that no one is talking about -- and i've been waiting for someone to mention -- is that the WVO changed their affiliation to the CWP one week prior to the protest. while there were similarities between the groups, anything that the national charter said or espoused before and after 11/3, has to be understood within that context.

rev. johnson is on the record stating that exposure and support is what they were looking for in joining a national organization. in that light, their primary focus of gaining membership one week after joining the CWP makes sense. what better rhetoric to gain supporters than "death to the klan!?"

i mean, they only had 20 people... right?

Ed Cone

They didn't change their affiliation, they changed their name. It didn't involve renouncing any ideology, or changing their plans or rhetoric.

sean coon

ok, so this local group, the WVO, shared the *exact* same principles, approach, drivers, etc. down the line with the CWP? we all can go back into that article and simply take anything attributed to tung and stick in a local WVO member's name?

i'm sorry, but there are holes in that argument.

Ed Cone

Did every member of the WVO/CWP buy every aspect of the party ideology?

Maybe not. Was the North Carolina chapter somehow a kindler, gentler version? I have seen no evidence of that. In fact, the quotes in Young's article about party membership and discipline argue against it:

"Jim Waller, one of those killed on Nov. 3, said: 'We will struggle against any tendency to raise building this union as the principal goal, to elevate it above building the party to prepare for revolution.'"

"Survivor Sally Bermanzohn has said: 'We all studied democratic centralism in a book called 'A Basic Understanding of the Communist Party of China.' … What democratic centralism comes down to is: Don't cross the leadership.'"

Elizabeth Wheaton

Actually, the transition from WVO to CWP was a name-change only: same membership, same leadership, same Marx-Mao philosophy, same tactics.

In 1976 two NC communist groups, including Waller, the Bermanzohns, Cauce & Nelson Johnson, merged with Jerry Tung's national organization, the WVO. By 1979, Waller et al had leadership roles in the organization, roles which they, like Tung, maintained when they decided to adopt the name CWP. If there was anything at all that changed during that period it was the extent of their militancy and their self-isolation from other leftist groups.

Does that help fill some of the "holes," Sean? I was a bit surprised to see this thread still active, but I'm glad you're asking questions. Good ones, too.

sean coon

you have to forgive me when i don't jump at the call to assign extreme terms to an organization simply because it aligned itself with either the namesake or doctrines of communism. any group alligned with an ideological system living outside the realm of adam smith's invisible hand of capitalism would sound the alarms as an automatic threat to our way of life. so if you want to include the context of the CWP to the TRC report, then you need to go that deep... at least.

the way i see it, when an organization in '79 adopts the mantra of communism to present a binary opposition to the system, their rhetorical approach is understandable on a certain level. options for change were pretty scarce at the time, especially for the underpriviledged in an industrial-based economy. as far as i can discern, the daily choices available were something akin to:

a) join the team and sit at the far end of the bench
b) exercise your right to protest and lose your job or
c) try to line up directly against us and we'll steamroll you.

so the party used the union as a foundation and then tried to rally support and membership for a larger opposition stance and, well, were killed for it.

now 27 years later, before the TRC releases their report, they're being monday morning quarterbacked for their convictions and very existence through lenses outside the process.

fine. if the TRC is ultimately about engaging the community in a conversation surrounding the context of the shooting (i'm paraphrasing ed, here) then let's remove ourselves from that street corner 27 years ago and ask ourselves this question of today:

if the rhetoric of revolution when applied to traditional capitalist practices and systems is so extreme, how many 2.0 heads would be facing similar charges of extremism today? i mean, we've already been labeled communists for simply trying to open up lines of communication, empower the voiceless and instill transparency in both business and government.

the walled gardens of today were the walled fortresses of yesteryear... or is that not easy to see?

in my mind, the rhetoric of revolutionary change today is just as vibrant, but it's more about balancing the weighted systems that we deal with online to pressure similar systems of operation in the real (media, government, commerce, etc.).

now, let me drift a bit farther to ask these questions:

what if we didn't have this relied upon, somewhat ubiquitous online, global system of commerce and information retrieval in '06? what if instead, we were forced to work within the systems of old, day in and day out, if we wanted to affect change on any level?

there's a good chance that we'd be stuck in the very same position (especially those with less priviledge than my white, middle-class upbringing), with the very same binary constraints, to change the very same systems from the street upwards (as in '79). the power of instant accountability via transparency and citizen media (our own invisible hand) wouldn't have been invented yet.

so my unanswerable question is this: can we say with any degree of certainty that we'd find radically different tactics to achieve similar degrees of change?

i'm not advocating a communist government or violent, deadly aggression in the name of change. if that's what you heard, well, you've missed the point and need to re-read my comment.

i'm arguing that on 11/3, neither of those elements led to 5 men and woman being dead in the street. and if you believe that it did, i feel it's a smokescreen regarding the guilt of the KKK and the questionable non-action of the GPD and the FBI. context only adds so much to conversation of 11/3.

hopefully, this helps clarify why i feel there are a still few more gaping holes in this dike of a conversation.

Cara Michele

Anybody who is at all interested in Nov. 3, 1979 should read both Signe's book, "Love And Revolution: A Political Memoir: People’s History Of The Greensboro Massacre, Its Setting And Aftermath," and Wheaton's book, "Codename GREENKIL: The 1979 Greensboro Killings." Both are available at the Greensboro Public Library. (I read both before Sally's book, "Through survivors' eyes : from the sixties to the Greensboro Massacre," came out in 2003. This thread reminded me that I need to read it, too!) There's been so much in the media about Nov. 3 that it seems like we should all have a good understanding just from the news accounts, but the books give a much, much fuller picture. If you're interested in Nov. 3rd, I strongly encourage you to read them.

Ed Cone

Sean, you are ignoring facts long on record, including some laid out in this thread.

You are whitewashing everything they said, and did, and absolving them of any responsibility for their own words and actions.

They were killed after picking a fight with some very dangerous people. That does not mean they deserved to die. It does not mean the police did their jobs. It does not mean law enforcement was not deeply involved in ways we don't fully understand with some scary elements.

There are other ways to bring social change than to advocate and foment violent action. There are other avenues beyond Maoism to challenge the power structure in this country. Many groups live outside the mainstream -- from the Amish to the hippies to Quakers who refuse to fight in our wars -- without being condemned as an "automatic threat to our way of life."

You are mythologizing, but the job of the commission is to write history.

But I think you are onto something really important that the context provides: what the hell was going on that people chose this extreme method of protest?

That's not to justify it, but to recognize it as something more than a bunch of crazy violent people. Why were these doctors so concerned that they turned onto this path?

For that matter, what forces helped keep the KKK active through the 20th century?

These are big questions, and they need to be addressed. That can happen without ignoring the choices made by people and the actions that they took.

Reconciliaton means reconciling with hard facts, as well as with history, and each other.

John D. Young

I look forward to the many insights from the Commission's report.
Maybe the two quotes below by Martin Luther King can provide some help as we wrestle with different choices of needed social and political change in 1979 and today.

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.... The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation. "
(Speech in Detroit 6/23/1963)

"Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time— the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts… Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love." (Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech)

sean coon

ed, i'm not ignoring anything. i've read, digested and responded to everything that has been said on this thread and elsewhere. i'm now much more familiar with the workings of the CWP and i understand *more* about the WVO/CWP.

muchos gracias, mi amigo.

also throughout this entire thread, i've called the local WVO/CWP both extremely rhetorical and naive. so... what exactly am i absolving them of? did they commit a crime that i'm not aware of? i mean seriously, the black and white of the situation is that they vociferously protested and prodded the kkk, members of their group were murdered and the kkk got off clean.

or am i missing something here?

when i bring my perspective on capitalism vs communism into the mix, it's primarily in regards to the timing and focus of these much talked about recent articles. i think that staring too hard at the protestor's affiliations (outside of the TRC doing their job) provides zero additional context to the day (we already know they came looking for a fight), rather, the conversation regarding their communist practices provides nothing but an excuse for *some* (not pointing at you, ed) to absolve the injustice of the other parties involved in the violent results.

you call that mythologizing, i call that cutting through the bullshit. and i can agree to disagree.

why did these bright men and women chose the CWP as a vehicle for change? yes, i agree, that line of inquiry would provide enormous context to understanding greensboro, labor issues, politics, class structure and society in general back in 1979. and if we can't do anything about putting the actual lawbreakers (read: killers) in jail, and we know that the CWP wasn't coming to pass out fliers and sing kumbaya, then i do think this is the true, worthwhile context to understand.

reconciliation means everything you stated, so maybe we should let them do their jobs first and foremost... you hippie, commie. ;)

sean coon

agreed, john, i'm looking forward to the report as well. and since we're quoting now, here's a few more to chew on (some with my emphasis included):

"I'll say nothing against him. At one time the whites in the United States called him a racialist, and extremist, and a Communist. Then the Black Muslims came along and the whites thanked the Lord for Martin Luther King." -Malcolm X


When asked if he (Malcolm X) would accept outer help from the Communists:

"Let me tell you a little story. It's like being in a wolf's den. The wolf sees someone on the outside who is interested in freeing me from the den. The wolf doesn't like that person on the outside. But I don't care who opens the door and lets me out."

"Then your answer is yes?"

"No, I'm talking about a wolf."


Dr. King on Malcolm X:
"You know, right before he was killed he came down to Selma and said some pretty passionate things against me, and that surprised me because after all it was my territory there. But afterwards he took my wife aside, and said he thought he could help me more by attacking me than praising me. He thought it would make it easier for me in the long run."


"It is impossible for capitalism to survive, primarily because the system of capitalism needs some blood to suck. Capitalism used to be like an eagle, but now it's more like a vulture. It used to be strong enough to go and suck anybody's blood whether they were strong or not. But now it has become more cowardly, like the vulture, and it can only suck the blood of the helpless. As the nations of the world free themselves, the capitalism has less victims, less to suck, and it becomes weaker and weaker. It's only a matter of time in my opinion before it will collapse completely."
-Malcolm X


"The goal has always been the same, with the approaches to it as different as mine and Dr. Martin Luther King's non-violent marching, that dramatizes the brutality and the evil of the white man against defenseless blacks. And in the racial climate of this country today, it is anybody's guess which of the "extremes" in approach to the black man's problems might personally meet a fatal catastrophe first -- "non-violent" Dr. King, or so-called "violent" me."

Ed Cone


The recent articles by Young and Wheaton were not written in a vacuum.

They were aimed at a specific problem: that the commission has heard much about a peaceful labor rally run by a movement that was destroyed because it was a threat to The Man.

The history of the CWP has a direct bearing on the plausibility of that underlying conspiracy theory.

I think you're chasing the wrong rabbit here: it's not that they deserved to die unpunished because they were extremists, it's that evidence of their extremism is central to evaluating some of the claims about WHY and HOW things went down as they did.


Ed, I thought your column was excellent. When speaking to the larger community on this issue, you demonstrate a tremendous ability to remove yourself and present as fair an overview as possible.

When speaking to this audience on your blog, however, your viewpoint takes a decidedly different tone. Take, for example, your last comment:

"They were aimed at a specific problem: that the commission has heard much about a peaceful labor rally run by a movement that was destroyed because it was a threat to The Man."

How are you in a position to speak to, even summarize, what the Commission has heard or not heard, and in what quantities?

Since I know that you are not (as you have reminded me that I am not), I'm puzzled that you want to accept this "problem", without supporting evidence, as anything more than a possibility.

How can you put forth such a vague generalization of the research the Commission has ingested, without even attributing it to particular individuals or sources you know the Commission has heard from, and without quantifying "much"?

Liz Wheaton blew a hole in her credibility by dealing in passive insinuations, such as that the foundation for the Commission "was based in large part on the manipulation of evidence and the exploitation of good-hearted people", and in false accusations, such as that the former CWP members "declared crucial information off limits".

When you back her assumption that there is a "problem", you are in danger of falling in that hole.

Your concern for balance is admirable, but you're not regarding all sides with equal skepticism, or holding all sides to equal scrutiny. You fail to address the personal agendas of ALL those who are writing editorials to the newspaper on this topic. And for someone who insists that arguments be grounded in fact not feeling, you have declared that a mere feeling -- "concern", as you put it - is all that's required for you to accept and advance the notion that such a "problem" exists.

In other words, you are overcompensating - and it's not a flattering color on you.

Fairness means being even-handed, not heavy-handed on either side. This is not at all like you.

If Wheaton, Young, or anyone else in the community would like to come forth with a specific accusation of tampering, manipulation, lying, suppression of information -- anything that crosses the line beyond expressing one's own personal opinion and story to the Commission -- I want to hear it.

Until someone can tell me why I should doubt the integrity of the members of the Commission, who held up their hands and swore to listen to all... until I have good reason to suspect that the Final Report is tainted by bias, for which the proof is greater than someone's personal feelings about personal histories... this "specific problem" of which you speak is worse than unproven -- it's an invention.

To the seven Commission members specifically, it's a very irresponsible and harmful invention. Failing some concrete evidence which you thus far haven't shared, I completely fail to see why you would want anything to do with it.

I have enjoyed our ongoing debate about the ramifications and the ins and outs of this Commission, its formation, its chances, its approach. I believe this is the first time that my comments have strayed from the philosophical to the personal. I don't intend to make a habit of it, but I wanted to say this.

You have characterized your viewpoint as "cautiously optimistic." It would be far more accurate to say that, at least on your blog, you are "casually pessimistic".

Wield an equally sharp sword in all directions, and you will be doing the community a large favor with your coverage of this.


sean coon

thank you, chewie. i was about to respond by saying, "and how long has the TRC been doing their job? do we really need editorials to feed their input of information surrounding 11/3?"

i'm sorry, ed, but that *is* a bogus position to take.



I don't agree with Ed on many of the issues discussed on this blog, but I think he is on solid ground when he talks about this. I think the words of Ms. Wheaton and Mr. Young reinforce Ed's viewpoint.

I'm not real sure what those who disagree with Ed want from the TRC and it's report. To disagree with the assessment of the CWP's position as being extreme is wishful thinking.

It sounds like some people are adament that, to use part of Ed's words "the plausibility of that underlying conspiracy theory" about "a peaceful labor rally run by a movement that was destroyed because it was a threat to The Man" not be challenged.

Ed Cone

Chewie, you cite my statement that "the commission has heard much about a peaceful labor rally run by a movement that was destroyed because it was a threat to The Man."

And then you ask, "How are you in a position to speak to, even summarize, what the Commission has heard or not heard, and in what quantities?"

I base my statement about what the commission heard on the public hearings and related documents. It's public record. The commission did hear a lot about the conspiracy to destroy a peaceful labor movement that was a threat to the Man.

Of course they heard other stuff, too, including Liz Wheaton.

I know they also have other information. And I am, as I said, cautiously optimistic about the report.

Elizabeth Wheaton

I have never questioned the integrity of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission. Nor have I said that those who were killed and wounded deserved it, nor have I said that the killers shouldn't have been convicted of murder, nor have I said that the police act responsibly.

What I have criticised in the T&R process are those members of the Task Force and the Project who refused to consider information that did not comport with the survivors' version of the facts.

One of the hallmarks of the story of Nov. 3 as it has evolved over the years is controversy. Did the task force have a responsibility to at least explore the elements of that controversy or did they not? If, as I believe, they did, how would you characterize the efforts of a faction to keep that information out of the task force's deliberations? It sounds like manipulation to me.

Is this speculation? Perhaps Ed can clarify. He was involved in some aspects of the early T&R work and has said that he too was concerned. Or perhaps you could do as I did: pick up the phone and call some task force members. Ask them, ask yourself, whether or not full disclosure is an important element in a search for the truth.

And please remember, we're not just talking about what has happened in Greensboro. This process is being looked on as a model for the international T&R movement. We share a responsibility for passing along a wide-ranging critique of this community's experience--the negative as well as the positive. That's what truth is all about, isn't it?

Ed Cone

I don't know anything about keeping information from the commission. If true, that is very disturbing.

I do know that the local taskforce had a very hard time moving beyond the whitewashed version of history; that this version was presented in public at the hearings; and that an embrace of this whitewashed history would be a blow to the report's credibility.


Elizabeth, forgive me if you've provided specifics elsewhere and I've missed them, but you write:

"...I have criticised in the T&R process are those members of the Task Force and the Project who refused to consider information that did not comport with the survivors' version of the facts."


"...efforts of a faction to keep that information out of the task force's deliberations?

I have two questions:

1) Can you provide specifics about who on the commission resisted such consideration and how that resistance was expressed?

2) Do you know that this "faction" was successful in keeping such informaiton from consideration or do you know that the information was, in fact, considered by the commission?

Thanks in advance.

Elizabeth Wheaton

Eek. Let me clarify: I was speaking only of the task force and the project, not the commission itself. My concern, though, is that what you, as an insider, call a "whitewash" was the basis on which the commission was established. That kind of indoctrination is very, very difficult to overcome, especially when the overwhelming weight of public testimony echoed the survivors' sanitized version of their role in the tragedy.

John D. Young

I am not aware of anyone who has suggested that the Commission has not had full access to the information. The complete integrity of the Commission has not been questioned by anyone.

I still contend that everyone's voice is welcome in the community conversation about Nov. 3rd and to be involved in the conversation now and after May 25th does not require "perfect knowledge", a membership card nor the approval of any person or group. There is no scripture or orthodoxy that sets rules. No one in this discussion is too early or too late.

I hope that after the Commission's report is released that the community discussion and the blogs will be very active. No one "owns" this process nor controls its ultimate outcome.


LW: "We share a responsibility for passing along a wide-ranging critique of this community's experience--the negative as well as the positive. That's what truth is all about, isn't it?"

Liz Wheaton, forgive me if I'm not interested in a lecture about truth from you. Your article was full of untruths, and the type of manipulation you are fond of attributing to former CWP members.

When you stated that "the foundation for the work here was based in large part on the manipulation of evidence and the exploitation of good-hearted people who were motivated by compassion", you insulted a large swath of very decent, intelligent, concerned community members who worked very hard, in consultation with a National Advisory Board, to forge a Declaration of Intent, a Mandate, and a Selection Process for the Commission that was as fair and democratic as they could make it.

They were motivated by all sorts of things, compassion for the survivors not being one I remember. Most notably, they publicly discussed a concern for the community and world they live in and a desire to make it better. To suggest that they were manipulated and exploited is to suggest that they are fools. To suggest that the survivors manipulated and exploited them is to suggest the depth of your own fear and paranoia.

When you stated that "the survivors' faction on the task force declared crucial information off limits", you demonstrated that the truth is not important to you. For meetings you did not attend, and a process you did not participate in, you seem absolutely certain of what happened; certain enough to put it in print. For a researcher, you are uncomfortably comfortable passing on hearsay as truth incarnate. The fact that such things did not occur does not seem to matter in your storyline. So forgive me, again, if I must automatically distrust anything you represent about what anyone on the Local Task Force or in the Greensboro Truth and Community Reconciliation Project did or did not do, said or did not say. You have proven unreliable in that task.

When you stated that "to consciously ignore information from sources other than the CWP survivors is the height of irresponsibility", and that "the independence of those charged with setting the standards for an inquiry is absolutely essential", insinuations you may have thought subtle enough to be digested without chewing, your words, in fact, did not escape scrutiny. They fairly leapt off the page as precisely the type of manipulation you seem driven to point out. Whether or not anyone actually did consciously ignore information, and whether or not the Commission actually is independent, seem facts not worth pursuing to you. You are content to hint, suggest, allude to, and hope to persuade, perhaps hoping that with such language, you will enjoy deniability once the truth emerges that none of these allegations stick.

And forgive me if here, on Ed's blog, I must correct you every time you utter another falsehood or attempt to contort another storyline to fit what must be a zealous mission to defame and distort. I cannot imagine a less potent force would compel anyone to show as reckless disregard for the truth in public, and on paper, as you have done.

Every time you characterize something you did not witness as "indoctrination", I will be there to correct you. Every time you speak of "...those members of the Task Force and the Project who refused to consider information that did not comport with the survivors' version of the facts", I will be there to press you for details, which you will not be able to produce.

Every time you insist that this entire truth and reconciliation process in Greensboro was simply a matter of simple-minded good people being exploited and manipulated by dark, sinister forces of evil in the form of political activists from the '70s, I will be there to call for some higher, better, less delusional thinking in Greensboro.

That, my friend, is the truth.


John Young, you're my friend and I respect you. I believe we are working for the same ends.

How do you reconcile what you wrote here today:

"I am not aware of anyone who has suggested that the Commission has not had full access to the information. The complete integrity of the Commission has not been questioned by anyone."

With these words from your article on April 2, 2006:

"Will the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission take the time to scrutinize the understand the CWP? Many think that the commission's final report, which is due in May, will be tilted toward the survivors."


Hello Ed,

I asked the questions because I was interested in why you called the WVO/CWP "extreme". Unfortunately you seemed more interested in having me admit they are extreme. My opinion is irrelevant. I'm not writing op-ed pieces.

I wanted to know if you thought they were 'extreme' because they used violence and rhetoric, or if it is just because they used 'violent rhetoric'.

You haven't been clear.

At first it seemed it was because of their rhetoric. (And on this point, do you know the timeline of some of the quotations attributed to the CWP, especially Jerry Tung. They sound like something said in a eulogy. In which case, they are irrelevant to Nov 3, because they happened after the fact... ie, they could not have contributed to the violence of the day.)

However, in some of your posts you suggest that the CWP has a history of violence.

For example you wrote: "The fact that the CWP had extreme rhetoric, sought a violent confrontation with the Klan in China Grove just months before Greensboro, etc."

‘Etc’ in this case is not very useful, really.

Moreover, I would disagree regarding China Grove. I cannot know for sure what the WVO wanted, but it seems to me that if they wanted violence, they would have attacked the Klan. Certainly the presence of a couple police officers wouldn't have stopped them.

My view (for what it's worth) is that they felt the only way to deal with the Klan was to show that they weren't intimidated. So they were aggressive. But that's different from violent.

I think that a fair assessment is that the WVO had no history of violent action prior to Nov 3.

And here's the thing: if you equate a group with (even) 'violent rhetoric' to a terrorist group like the Klan, you conflate two very different organizations. Calling both 'extreme' is incredibly imprecise (especially for someone who deals in words). If everything outside the status quo is extreme, then the word ‘extreme’ loses any real utility.

(e.g., you wrote:
“because it must to some degree support the old narrative of two extremist groups facing off in the streets of Greensboro”.)

Why are you interested in equating the two? That seems like ‘whitewashing’.

But don't bother answering that question because I won't be coming back to see the answer...

Here's why:

For the record, Ed: 'Anon' and 'Just the Facts' are not the same person.

I'm surprised that someone who should be computer savvy doesn't know that many people can use the same computer (in a public library, for example), or many computers can be connected to the same wireless server.

So save the dime-store detective work.

What really pisses me off, however, is that I chose to remain anonymous -- and you did not respect my wishes.

And it’s bad enough that you tried to see who I was, but then you tried to ‘out’ me by connecting me with “just the facts”.

And what is truly bush league is that you used this to avoid answering ‘facts’.

I’m outta here (and won’t be back).

John D. Young


My comment you quoted above is a query (an old Quaker tradition) not a definitive statement or a conclusion. I think the Commission will take the time to fully scrutinize the roles of everyone involved. My second sentence was more of a reminder but I think and hope that the Commission will overcome that perception. I guess we will know soon. If my words were confusing maybe it is because in my heart I am confused and very sad about what I dreamed to be the possibility of community reconciliation. I am one in the community who calls Zee Holler, Ed Whitfield, you and Elizabeth Wheaton among my friends.

I know from a discussion yesterday that a lot of folks involved in the Project and LTF saw Wheaton's comments to be a vicious attack on the integrity of the early development of the process. I know from being involved that the process has good integrity and I know that Wheaton was not involved so she does not understands all the efforts to create a good process. I guess you should go right ahead and attack Liz and she is very capable to respond by attacking you -- the process of Truth & Reconciliation is in our hands and we are failing the process. We have the harsh words and the anger but where is some spiritual center -- where is Ubuntu? Michael Battle said that the reconciliation part of the process requires as much work, energy and effort as the facts and truth part but show me one person among us who has spent much energy on reconciliation.

Many folks are just getting involved now as the report will be presented to the community on May 25th. They do not know all the facts but they still have a right to ask questions and discuss the process. What is very clear to you may be very unclear to a lot of others. Comments from many in our community, including the City Council, were aimed at questioning the integrity of the process. I think our role may be better in explaining the quality of the process or showing the true potential of the process rather than harshly attacking anyone who questions the process. Ultimately the integrity and quality of the process will be shown in (1) the quality of the report and (2) more importantly the ability to create community reconciliation. At the moment I am hopeful about the quality of the report but have only tears and deep sadness over the likelihood of community reconciliation.

Ed Cone

Anon, I guess we'll just have to disagree about the use of the term "extreme" as applied to a Maoist group advocating violent revolution. I'm comfortable using it.

I didn't do any detective work, or try to "out" you, I looked at my comments log and there it was, two posts with different names from the same address.


John, it's my feeling that truth is a prerequisite for reconciliation. Others may disagree, but I will continue to insist on the truth, and challenge untruths spoken in public.
Until Greensboro is ready to reject some long and deeply held myths, misconceptions, and demons, I think the only kind of reconciliation we will find is a shallow, temporary sort.

I believe in real reconciliation, too; but think it to be a process over years, not months, and only when we can stop trading in lies and begin to earn each other's trust.


"Certainly it is difficult to build a future on the basis of half-truths, of lies, and deceit. Reconciliation is not a cover-up, a veil drawn; it is an honest facing-up to and acknowledgement of the past so that we can move on without being paralysed by it."

-- Dr. Alex Boraine, Deputy Chair of the South African TRC


"Reconciliation is liable to be a long-drawn-out process with ups and downs, not something accomplished overnight and certainly not by a commission, however effective."

"Forgiving and being reconciled are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the pain, the degradation, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end dealing with the real situation helps to bring real healing. Spurious reconciliation can bring only spurious healing."

-- Archbishop Desmond Tutu, "No Future Without Forgiveness"

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