White Lives Matter rallies held in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro but counter-protesters heavily outnumber extremist groups
White nationalists were heavily outnumbered by around 600 counter-protesters during a Saturday afternoon White Lives Matter rally in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, that passed off uneventfully after police kept the two groups separated.
At around 3pm, a small group of white nationalists left the citys public square. Counter-protesters, who had lined routes into town chanting Murfreesboro loves, refugees are welcome here and this is what democracy looks like, chanted black lives matter and na na na na goodbye.
Murfreesboro city officials, who had been anticipating a large number of white nationalists coming into the area, said the rally had been without reports of incident.
Earlier in the day, another rally was held in nearby Shelbyville. Police said one counterprotester was arrested and cited for disorderly conduct after he exhibited threatening behavior. Shelbyville police lieutenant Brian Crews told the Tennessean that besides that, everything went lovely.
The Tennessean later reported that the group which obtained the permit for the Murfreesboro event, the League of the South, had decided not to participate.
The announcement of the two rallies had prompted concern that they could produce the kind of violence that resulted in the death of a counter-protester at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August. Nineteen people were also injured then, when a car was driven into a crowd.
Earlier this month, three white supremacists were charged with attempted homicide after they argued with a group protesting a speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer and fired a shot at them, after at rally at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida.
Ahead of the Tennessee rallies, law enforcement imposed strict security measures including the use of hand-held metal detectors to detect guns, pipes, chains and a long list of other banned objects.
The town of Murfreesboro shut down several blocks around its public square and officials strongly encouraged residents to avoid the area in the interest of reducing tension and avoiding conflicts.
The white nationalist groups said they were protesting a range of issues, including refugee resettlement, the impact of the opioid epidemic and what they say is a lack of media attention around a mass shooting in Antioch, Tennessee in September in which one woman was killed and seven people were injured. The suspect is black and reportedly came to the US from Sudan.
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 before the event, adding that the city and county were proud of the community we are building and the diversity of its residents.
The slightest indication of disruption or violence will initiate immediate law enforcement action to uphold the rights of citizens and ensure their safety, Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh and police interim chief Michael Bowen said.