After about 100 white supremacists encountered a heavy police presence and resistance from counter protesters at its first rally in Shelbyville, Tenn. on Oct. 28, organizers canceled the second “White Lives Matter” rally in nearby Murfreesboro, according to CNN.
Dressed in Black and bearing helmets and shields, the groups had planned to start at Shelbyville and then head to Murfreesboro about 20 miles to the north, but the Murfreesboro rally was canceled, according to Brad Griffin, public relations chief for League of the South, a Southern nationalist group. Griffin announced the rally was canceled on Twitter saying that Murfreesboro was a “lawsuit trap” and that holding an event there was not worth the risk.
He said on Twitter that his fellow white supremacists have “nothing to gain.”
According to ABC News, one “White Lives Matter” attendee who was standing with the white nationalists was arrested during the first rally, in Shelbyville. “The white male, wearing a green fleece jacket, was approached by a flurry of cops who quickly pulled him through a temporarily detached metal barricade, pinning protesters on two sides of a street. Police took the unidentified man away in a golf cart,” ABC News noted.
Police stood between some 200 counter protesters and various white supremacist factions as they exchanged chants, according to the Huffington Post. Mike Tubbs, a former Green Beret who spent time in prison for plotting to bomb minority and Jewish businesses and who was responsible for violence in Charlottesville, led the hundred or so white supremacists into their designated rally area.
“I’m here to defend my heritage and my people against the forces of darkness,” he told HuffPost.
The decision to hold the rallies in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro, two mid-sized and largely rural cities in central Tennessee, came down to familiarity, city demographics and several prominent local news stories, Griffin told CNN. Shelbyville has a population of about 20,000 people, and Murfreesboro, has about 130,000 people. Both are largely rural counties that heavily favored President Donald Trump in the 2016 election.
One of the counter protestors, Jessica Ortega, 28, said she drove from Clarksville, Tenn., to protest the white nationalist rally.
“I had to drive down. You can’t live a couple hours away from something like this and not get up off your a** to protest,” she said.
“What will I tell my daughters? ‘Mommy was too busy watching football to protest a Nazi takeover?’ Not me. Not in my state,” Ortega said.
Murfreesboro Mayor McFarland posted a video on Facebook with several religious and community leaders supporting diversity and denouncing prejudice and injustice. “We are Murfreesboro and we stand together,” McFarland said.
Meanwhile, some Murfreesboro businesses and restaurants boarded up their windows near the rally sites and posted signs saying “Murfreesboro Loves.” That phrase, one of the main hashtags for those opposed to the rally’s message, was also written into the fence outside the Murfreesboro Boys and Girls Club.
The Facebook group called Murfreesboro Loves also held marches, prayers, and rallies in different areas of the city, followed by an event with live music and pizza.
“We will drive home the message that white supremacy is not welcome in Murfreesboro,” the group posted on Facebook on Oct. 28.
After the Shelbyville protest ended, about two dozen men left the rally, entered a Nashville restaurant, and started a brawl with an interracial couple, according to New York Daily News.
Video footage shows the confrontation. The woman left the restaurant with a bloodied forehead after about two dozen white nationalists asked her to ditch her boyfriend and join them.
“The woman went outside the bar in an attempt to “de-escalate the situation,” the New York Daily News reported. “But she was followed, according to footage of the violence. Several of the assailants surrounded her and one of the men slugged her in the face, causing a cut above her eye, police said.”
The assailants soon bolted in vehicles with New York and Wisconsin plates by the time police arrived. The victims left as well, but the battered woman returned to report the assault, cops said. She refused medical treatment.
In an interview with WZTV-TV, the woman who asked not be identified, questioned why a member of the “White Lives Matter” group would focus their aggression on her.
“What do these people stand for and how are they allowed to still assemble and protest?” she said in the Nashville television interview. “This society and government is truly broken! Our president is talking about players kneeling for a song about freedom, but we are persecuted every day. We as Americans need to open our eyes and come together to stop this injustice and hate.”
By Rosaland Tyler