On the first day of his third trial, Roland Wayne Woods, a 285-pound ex-leader of the American Nazi Party, wore an olive-colored T-shirt that said, "Eat Lead, You Lousy Red."
On the second day, his T-shirt said, "Lee Surrendered. I didn't."
"I don't surrender," he said outside the courtroom. "The more they try me, the meaner I get."
Woods is one of six Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members who have been acquitted twice by all-white juries for their role in a Nov. 3, 1979, clash with demonstrators at a "Death to the Klan" rally in Greensboro. Five members of the Communist Workers Party died of gunshot wounds; 11 members or sympathizers were injured.
Last Monday, Woods returned to court in a $48 million civil suit that families of the dead call their "last chance for justice."
Jury selection occupied the first week, and U.S. District Court Judge Robert R. Merhige Jr. said he expected opening arguments to begin early next week.
The trial promises to be more than a rerun of the two earlier cases: This time the families of the dead have their own lawyers, investigators, public opinion poll and even a public relations firm.
They argue that this trial, which is expected to take months, will answer questions about government complicity that they say were ignored or buried in earlier trials. Among them:
* Did a federal undercover agent act as a provocateur?
* Did a police informer lead the attack on demonstrators?
* Did Greensboro police deliberately stay away from the confrontation, knowing that rival groups were armed and spoiling for a fight?
* Did local and federal law enforcement officers cover up critical evidence in the case?
Television cameras recorded events that Saturday morning 5 1/2 years ago.
Videotapes show about 70 demonstrators, most of them black, gathering beside a public housing project with "Death to the Klan" placards as a caravan of Nazis and Klansmen slowly drive into the area. There are shouts and sounds of sticks hitting against cars. Several cars and vans stop.
The tapes blur here, but several things are clear: Nazis and Klansmen, calm and unhurried, taking their weapons from the trunk of a blue sedan; gunshots, confusion and panic; bloody bodies on the ground, and one widow proclaiming over her dead husband, "Long live the Communist Party. Long live the working class."
No police appear until later.
Woods admits that he fired his .12-gauge shotgun at demonstrators but claims that he was provoked.
"They attacked me as I was walking down a public street," he said in an interview. "They fired at me, and I fired back. The state said I hit four of them."
Woods considers himself and the other Nazis and Klansmen as heroes of their race. Carolyn Strohman, a mass communications professor at Howard University, has analyzed 1,500 newspaper stories about the incident and has concluded that others may believe that as well.
Strohman said the Nazis and Klansmen were most often portrayed in area newspapers as "family people, hard workers and churchgoers who love America" while the slain communists were viewed as leftist radicals who "in a sense got what was coming them."
The Greensboro Civil Rights Fund, a coalition of religious and civil rights groups, has mounted a public relations campaign to shape opinion, complete with press briefings, statistics on growing Klan violence and information packets.
The packets identify the slain demonstrators as members of the CWP, a Maoist, anti-Soviet group. But the emphasis is on humanizing them as talented young people with families who gave up promising careers to work as union organizers in North Carolina textile mills. Two were doctors. One was a medical school dropout, another an honors graduate of Duke University, another a student leader at Bennett College in Greensboro.
In interviews, their widows avoid any hint of revolutionary rhetoric.
"I don't believe in overthrowing the government. I want to change government," said one of them, Dale Sampson, a former cheerleader at the University of Delaware. Her husband, Dr. William Sampson, was running unopposed for the presidency of the union local at Cone Mills' White Oak plant when he died.
The 61 defendants in the civil suit include Klansmen and Nazis, Greensboro police, the city of Greensboro, former city officials and several agents of the FBI and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Charges about government complicity center on Edward W. (Yankee) Dawson, a police informer, and Bernard Butkovich, a BATF agent, who had infiltrated Woods' Nazi chapter in the summer of 1979, and on the absence of police when the shootings occurred.
Dawson and Butkovich attended planning sessions with Nazi and Klan members in the weeks before Nov. 3. According to depositions from his government superiors, Butkovich told them that he had voted at one meeting to form a Klan-Nazi alliance and that he attended a session two days before the Greensboro march at which plans were discussed to heckle and throw eggs at demonstrators.
Dawson, a 66-year-old carpenter and former FBI informant, said in an interview that at another meeting he urged Klansmen to disrupt the "Death to the Klan" march to avenge communist taunting of Klansmen at a rally the previous summer. He said he kept in frequent contact with his police control officer, Jerry (Rooster) Cooper, and with an old FBI contact, during the 10 days before the march.
Cooper, he said, told him to pick up a parade permit outlining the parade route. Dawson said he telephoned Cooper the morning of Nov. 3 and told him that Klansmen heading for the rally were armed.
An internal police review concluded that officers had been misled by Dawson about the starting time and site of the march and the expected point of confrontation. Officers have testified that they stayed away from the starting point of the march because they wanted to keep a low profile.
Dawson and other Klansmen interviewed this week appear unconcerned about the trial. "I don't see what we're here for," said the police informer. "They're asking $48 million. I've got about 48 cents to my name. They know that. I don't have anything to lose."