On a cloudy day in early November 1979, a caravan of Nazi and Ku Klux Klan members careened into Greensboro, North Carolina, winding toward a local Communist Workers’ Party protest that had gathered in the city to march against the state’s white supremacists. The communists, wearing berets and hard hats, spotted the fleet and taunted the new arrivals with chants of “Death to the Klan!” The KKK convoy slowed, and stopped. Far-left protesters, bearing both wooden planks and concealed pistols, began surrounding the motorcade, beating the doors. As TV cameras rolled, the trunk of a Ford Fairlane, stuffed with shotguns and rifles, popped open. Someone yelled from one of the cars, “You asked for the Klan! Now you’ve got ’em!”
Eighty-eight seconds and 39 shots later, five communists lay dead. Eight other demonstrators were wounded, some permanently paralyzed. For a brief moment, the Greensboro Massacre became one of America’s most notorious acts of political blood-letting. And yet, unlike Wounded Knee or Selma, Greensboro has over the decades largely faded from memory.
Except in Portland.
Among the fringe political groups currently waging battle in the City of Roses, Greensboro is well-remembered, even idealized. It is increasingly seen as the inevitable end of the escalating violence that has rocked this city since Donald Trump’s election in November. Left wing “antifas,” wearing red bandana masks alongside other far-left protesters, have rioted multiple times and caused millions of dollars of damage, with threats from left wing groups even forcing the cancellation of a parade because it featured a float from the local Republican Party. Eager to push back against the opposition, white nationalists have begun mixing with anti-government militia members for “free speech” rallies. A man who attended one of these rallies would later stab to death two men on a train when they intervened to stop his anti-Muslim rants against two young women. The norms of protest and counterprotest—mostly verbal shouting and sign-waving—are quickly crumbling in Portland. The left wing antifa have even threatened preemptive violence in the name of the defending the city from groups they say promote violence.
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