White Nationalists held White Lives Matter rallies in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro on Saturday, and were met with overwhelming counter protest support. Organizers of the rallies had said they aimed at protesting refugee resettlement and immigration to Middle Tennessee, as well as a shooting at an Antioch church where a Sudanese immigrant is charged with killing one woman and shooting six others.
Law enforcement kept the protestors and counter protestors separated by barriers on opposite sides of the street. Protesters traded taunts, but no violence was reported. According to police, the only arrest came at the hands of one White Nationalist in Shelbyville for disorderly conduct and exhibiting threatening behavior.
White Nationalists were outnumbered two to one in Shelbyville as they carried Confederate flags and chanted for closed borders and deportations at a mid-morning gathering.
Socialist movement spokesperson, Brian Culpepper’s attempt to rally his group was largely drowned out by counter protesters playing of Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech over speakers.
In Murfreesboro, the White Nationalists were outnumbered 20-1 by counter protesters that were largely led by the group Murfreesboro Loves.
Murfreesboro Police and the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office closed downtown Murfreesboro to pedestrian and vehicle in advance of the rally, urging local residents to avoid the Public Square during the White Lives Matter event.
Most downtown businesses were closed with many boarded up.
The city issued a statement saying: “The views of the League of the South, which calls for establishment of a Southern nation, do not come from within Murfreesboro, a diverse, fast-growing city and home of MTSU, and don’t represent beliefs of the city and county government. “The First Amendment provides a right to free speech and a right to peaceably assemble, and, thus, neither the city nor the county [could] legally prohibit the event.”
On Friday, Gov. Haslam said: “We want to send a really clear message that these folks are not welcome in Tennessee. If you’re part of the White supremacist movement you’re not somebody that we want in Tennessee.”