This afternoon, passing through the law school lobby on my way to teach Civil Procedure, I was distracted by the roar of motorcycles. A biker caravan passing down Greene Street might not have attracted much notice, but for the fact the every bike was festooned with a Confederate flag (or two or three) and many of the riders sported Confederate and neo-Nazi emblems on their leather jackets. These racist fascist bikers are in town for the Southeast regional gathering of the National Socialist Movement, which claims to be the largest neo-Nazi organization in the U.S.
Their presence is particularly offensive in a city that is still picking over the wounds of the notorious 1979 Greensboro Massacre, where five anti-racist marchers were gunned down by white supremacists. The killers were acquitted by all-white juries; in a later civil trial, the City of Greensboro, the Ku Klux Klan, and the American Nazi Party were found liable for violating the marchers' civil rights.
Suffice it to say that most people in Greensboro do not welcome this hateful group. Greensboro would prefer to be known for its more positive and photogenic role in civil rights history. It was here, in 1960, that 4 African-American students from North Carolina A&T University sat down at a Woolworth's lunch counter and refused to leave, a crucial moment in the non-violent protest movement that would help bring about the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After some delay, the International Civil Rights Center & Museum is now under construction in the former Woolworth's building.
As a civil libertarian, and a law professor, I understand why these racist fascist cretins must be permitted to drive through my town displaying their hateful emblems, and to hold their hate-filled meeting (which, I can't help but be amused to note, is billed on the National Socialist Movement website [I'm not going to provide a link] as "business casual"). As a resident, I hope that they are true to their word that this will be a peaceful event at a private location, without a public rally. As a human being, I despair at the fact that here, in 2009, there are still people who think it worthwhile to gather in the name of racial superiority. It's times like this that I wish I believed in Hell.