The Tennessee communities of Murfreesboro and Shelbyville are preparing its people for two Saturday “White Lives Matter” rallies that might end as violent as the previous August Charlottesville, Virginia, rallies. The Charlottesville rally left three people dead, a wave of hate across the country, and caused Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe to declare a state of emergency. Meanwhile, a rally last week in Gainesville, Florida, ended with people opening fire.
Murfreesboro’s people reunited Friday night, near the areas where the rallies are going to take place, to pray and ask their neighbors to avoid any kind of violent attitudes — including hate-speech and physical encounters.
This Saturday morning, at 10 a.m. CDT people from the white supremacist group were supposed to gather in Shelbyville, Tenn, although officials closed the streets around the area yesterday. They planned to march from that point to 25 miles north to Murfreesboro, where the second rally would begin.
Hopefully, nothing’s going to happen in Shelbyville, where the population is over 22,000. If that is the case, however, the participants will move to Murfreesboro — with a population of 130,000 — and supposedly stay in the inner circle of the courthouse square until 4 pm CDT, which is the limit hour that authorities approved for the rallies.
However, as we have seen in the last protests, some individuals prefer to stay a little longer, and some of them start acting violently against others.
Authorities have informed that businesses in the downtowns are closed until Monday, and that police will be carefully working this entire weekend to avoid the gatherings becoming violent encounters between white supremacists and counterprotesters.
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam said that state and local law enforcement officials would be present “in full force” for any inconvenient.
“We want to send a really clear message that these folks are not welcome in Tennessee,” the governor told reporters Friday in Gatlinburg. “If you’re part of the white supremacist movement you’re not somebody that we want in Tennessee.”
Both authorities and Tennessee towns’ citizens are not the only ones who are worried about the rallies. Some of the rallies organizers opened about their concerns, too.
‘White Lives Matter’ leaders wonder if the rallies can develop peacefully
The white supremacists from the League of the South organized the rallies for this weekend after noticing the number of immigrants and refugees that are staying in Middle Tennessee — especially the Somali and Sudanese people.
The participants of the rallies will be from several white supremacist groups — such as the Nationalist Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi group; Anti-Communist Action, a right-group that claims communists are threatening the country; Vanguard America, which believes America has only been a white people’s nation since its beginning, and that has to stay that way; and the Traditionalist Worker Party, which wants to separate white Americans from Afro-Americans.
Many controversial leaders were invited to the gatherings and to openly give their speeches in the areas where many people — both supporters and counter-protesters — are expected to attend.
Among them, the organizers chose the League of the South president Michael Hill and Matthew Heimbach, who’s also the leader of the Traditionalist Worker Party, to give a speech. Likewise, the “alt-right” and “identitarian” movements’ leader Richard Spencer was also invited to participate in the protests.
Even the same members of the secessionist groups admit it’s quite possible to witness encounters between angry people.
“The world has completely changed since Trump was elected. The streets are incredibly more violent. There is a threat level that didn’t exist before,” the 36-year-old member of the League of the South, Brad Griffin, said. “It used to be just us and these peaceful liberals out there yelling at each other.”
Previous protests weren’t violent
In 2013, the League of the South made something similar to this weekend-scheduled rallies.
Around 75 participants dressing khaki shorts gathered that year in the streets and protested using cardboard signs and holding picnics in parks for lunch. But recent events forced Griffin to worry more than 2013, even to ask people not to bring guns to the rallies in case there is any problem.
When talking about the 2013 protest, Griffin said that he knew the guy who organized “the counterprotest.” For that rally, none of them thought there was going to be any “physically fighting” between participants of both groups.
Today, Griffin expects the worst. He knows that in both towns, there are groups very attached to white supremacists and Trump’s policies. According to the Montgomery, Alabama citizen, it’s unsure if these residents are the ones who might start acting violently first. Also, there’s nothing to make him think that the counterprotesters might not be the ones who’ll start turning violent.
In the 30 rallies that Griffin has participated these recent years, just the last ones have turned violent.
Ultimately, protests are legal while these don’t turn violent in any way. In a statement released by the city of Murfreesboro, it says that the city is and the county is “proud of the community we are building and the diversity of its residents.”
“The first amendment provides a right to free speech and a right to peaceably assemble and thus neither the city nor the county can legally prohibit the event,” the city of Murfreesboro said in a statement.
Source: The Washington Post