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Seeking Closure on 'Greensboro Massacre'

Lawrence does not have far to look, said Michael Schlosser, the former prosecutor who is now a lawyer in private practice. She should ask Johnson, he said. He was the leader.

Schlosser is among those who believe the commission is a waste of time. How will the panel produce a balanced report if former Klan and Nazi Party members do not testify? he asked.


Police in Greensboro restrain suspects after the shootings on Nov. 3, 1979. Five participants in the "Death to the Klan" demonstration were killed. (Greensboro Daily News Via AP)

The commission has no official support from the city of Greensboro or the state of North Carolina and is funded by grants from two New York foundations.

In contrast, the South Africa Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated generations of human rights abuses under apartheid, was backed by the government and possessed authority that the Greensboro commission lacks. These include subpoena power that would compel former members of the Klan and Nazi Party to come forward, and the ability to grant amnesty.

Without such tools, the effort seems fated to be at best one-sided, the mayor and other opponents said.

Besides, Schlosser said, reconciliation between the races has already occurred in Greensboro. As an example, he pointed to Willena Cannon, a black resident who believed that Schlosser was biased against the rally's organizers. A few years ago, Schlosser said, Cannon called on him to represent a son who was accused of a crime. "In my mind, that's reconciliation," he said.

"Ain't that a bip?" Cannon said when she learned of Schlosser's comment. "White people have a tendency to speak for black people here. I didn't choose him to represent my son. My son is grown, and he chose him. I never would have chosen him."

She said, "I have not reconciled."

That is why the project is moving forward, supporters said, and the mayor accepts that. "While I don't encourage it," Holliday said, "there's nothing I can do to stop it."

"If I had been in the jury, I definitely would have found someone guilty, if not everyone," he said. "But while I don't agree with the decision of the jury, it's our system, and I respect it."

Black residents are not so forgiving of the city or the judicial system that allowed defense attorneys to weed out black potential jurors.

Cannon said she plans to give a statement soon. "I think the city was involved in that shooting, and I'm doing everything I can do to show that," she said.

"They're fighting against it because they know, too. You cannot seriously reconcile until the truth comes out."


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