Their voices and manner as determined as their uncompromising ideology, the widows of three Communist Workers Party members raged today against the jurors who had freed the six Ku Klux Klansmen and Nazis who had been accused of murdering their husbands.
Marty Nathan, whose physician-husband, Michael, was among the five Communists shot to death at a "death to the Klan" rally the CWP organized in 1979 claimed that the government had hand picked the jury for its anti-Communist, pro-Klan sympathies.
"Even if the jury had sent them to the gas chamber, it wouldn't have been justice," Nathan said. "It's not just the Klan and the Nazis -- it's the government."
"The U.S. government openly assassinated five people in Greensboro on Nov. 3, 1979," Nathan said. "I'm really furious about both the murders and the verdicts, but I'm only a little surprised that they were so blatant about letting them go free."
Only once, when the women talked of their personal feelings about their dead husbands, did glimpses of any emotional trauma break through their steely political rhetoric.
"I loved my husband more than any other person, and his death was the most horrible blow that has ever happened to me," an angry Nathan shouted. Her voice faltered and tears suddenly flooded her eyes and cheeks as she and Flores Cauce, whose husband, Cesar, was also killed in the rally, explained how they could continue their work with the party despite their grief.
In Greensboro, Signe Waller, 42, another CWP widow, said her husband's death and her grief could not be separated from the cause of the Communist Workers Party.
"It wasn't that I didn't care for my husband," she said, describing why she had shouted "Long live the Communist Party" as she stood over her husband's body. "At that moment, I never loved my husband more."
All three of the women defended their decisions not to testify at the trial, testimony that some jurors said might have "enlightened" them. Nathan, 29, and Cauce, 25, served 30 days in jail for demonstrating in the courtroom on the opening day of the trial, calling it a sham.
"The jury had four videotapes and lots of eyewitnesses," Cauce said. "In any other case, there would have been convictions."
The women accused jury foreman Octavio Manduley, who fled from Cuba, of being an anti-Communist who cared little about the CWP slayings. Another juror, they said, was the next-door neighbor of a prominent member of the Klan in Greensboro.
Neither Manduley nor Greensboro District Attorney Michael Schlosser could be reached for comment on the jurors' backgrounds or possible prejudices.
Nathan and Cauce reacted to the verdicts today by promoting their previously announced plans for an anti-Klan, anti-Nazi, anti-government conference to be held in Durham Dec. 6. They met frequently with reporters during the day, attended a protest vigil at Duke University and held a news conference with several sympathizers who denounced the verdicts. Law enforcement authorities attended the latter gathering, meticulously photographing all of the speakers.
Although the Justice Department has said it is reviewing the Greensboro case with an eye toward filing civil rights charges against the six acquitted defendants, the widows of the slain demonstrators said they were unimpressed.
"I don't know what the Justice Department plans on doing, and I don't expect any more justice from the Justice Department than we got in Greensboro," Nathan said. "The federal government set the thing up and the federal government is not going to expose itself."
The women also saved some of the criticism for the media, complaining of efforts to depict them as "non-giving, non-caring, non-loving." They vowed to keep pressing their views of the government on the public.
"We say what we know we have to say. We say it because we know it is the truth and because we love the people who were killed," Nathan said. "They would be saying it if they were here."