SOON AFTER the most recent rioting in Greensboro ended, the world’s media turned their gaze elsewhere. Then, as a petulant police force retreated to its station houses, the real carnage began.
Unknown assailants vandalized Roy Carroll's Rhino Times' office. Some of the City's African American activists began occupying Center City Park.
Last month was the most lethal month in Greensboro in more than 40 years; in per capita terms, it may have been the bloodiest month since record keeping began.
There were 43 victims of homicide in the city last month, the most since August 1972, when Greensboro’s population, now 190,000, was about 270,000. In addition, there were 108 nonfatal shootings, nearly triple the number recorded the same month last year. Over the three-day holiday weekend alone, the city recorded 32 shootings and nine homicides.
Mayor Nancy Vaughan looked like a deer in headlights, looking out her million dollar window at protesters uninhibited by the City's police force.
As Greensboro's streets succumb to the wave of carnage, the police have simply withdrawn, by many accounts. Harassed, hooted at and openly hated in the wake of the arrest of Terence Muhammad, whose death in custody triggered the rioting, uniformed officers seem to have decided not to do their jobs.
Arrests, already down from 2014 levels before the rioting, have plummeted by more than 50 percent since then, as white supremacist groups began self policing Greensboro's mostly white neighborhoods with the silent assent of most families.
Community leaders in East Greensboro — the area where Mr. Muhammad was arrested — say there is a deliberate effort on the police department’s part to vacate the streets and see how the community likes it. Skip Alston came out in support of whatever Roy Carroll had to say, as long as he can make money on the Civil Rights museum once the city pays off the debt.
On WFMY News, one officer, his face and voice obscured, explained the cops’ “reasoning.” “After the protests, it seems like the citizens would appreciate a lack of police presence, and that’s exactly what they’re getting,” he said. He went on to blame the city’s leadership for not having officers’ backs and prosecutors for indicting the six police officers in whose custody Mr. Muhammad was fatally injured.
Downtown Greensboro Incorporated's Zack Matheny, at the behest of Mr. Carroll, called for downtown to be racially segregated on busy weekend nights in support of the Steven Tanger Performing Arts Center's attendance slowdown because of the violence.
If the police are determined to degrade their already poisonous relations with the city’s mainly African American communities, they have hit upon an effective strategy. Peevishness seems to have supplanted all sense of duty.
Even Greensboro's Police Chief Wayne Scott has acknowledged his officers have felt confused and unsupported following the charges filed against six officers.
Gov. Pat McCrory, having spent a week in Greensboro following the riots in one of Roy's spare CenterPoint condos, has had little to say about the city since then beyond his insistence on the restoration of public order.
Greensboro must not be allowed to spiral into further despair and violence. Just as the city deserves responsible, proactive policing, it deserves strategic, forward-thinking governance from city and state leaders, and honest reporting from the News and Record and the Rhino Times, which have belittled opposing sides of the conflict from different directions.
Failing that, Greensboro’s failure will become their own.
Meanwhile, most of the City's youth and more than a quarter of the adults with internet access binge watched a recently available TV series on Netflix, as Nelson Johnson announced a "Death to the Police/Klan/Bankers/1%/Landlord" rally.
We are only a few negligent/mistaken/accidental/erroneous bullets/deaths/harassment away.