White supremacist groups mobilized in Shelbyville, Tennessee, on Saturday (October 28) for a “White Lives Matter” rally. The outsized response from counter-protesters, including local anti-racist groups, prompted them to cancel a follow-up action in nearby Murfreesboro.
The Washington Post reports that about 100 demonstrators attended the Shelbyville action on Saturday. The Post and CNN’s list of organizers included The League of the South, the National Socialist Movement and the Traditionalist Worker Party—a coalition representing the complimentary strands of neo-Confederacy, neo-Nazism and White nationalism, respectively, which previously coalesced for the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia this summer.
The Post reports that the organizers staged the action against immigration and refugees’ supposed threat to what one speaker called “White Southern culture.” The League of the South spokesperson Brad Griffin told CNN that the organizers picked the locations because of refugee resettlement in the area. Griffin believed that the Tennessee cities, both of which lie in predominantly conservative and rural counties, would handle the rallies with less opposition than Charlottesville.
CNN added that the organizers also wished to address a shooting last month in nearby Antioch, where a U.S. resident from Sudan named Emanuel Kidega Samson allegedly opened fire in a church. Anonymous insiders told The Washington Post at the time that Samson, who reportedly killed one person and injured seven others, had a note in his car referencing Dylann Roof’s 2015 murder of Black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina.
According to The Post, demonstrators met about 200 counter-protesters in Shelbyville. Local organizations like the anti-racist Shelbyville Loves held vigils and prayer sessions for two weeks prior to the assembly. Counter-protesters drowned out the White supremacists on multiple occasions, playing the “Ghostbusters” theme song and chanting “Black Lives Matter.”
“White Lives Matter” participants planned to march from Shelbyville to Murfreesboro, where CNN says between 800 and 1,000 counter-protesters were assembled in anticipation of their arrival. Although some White supremacists did make it to Murfreesboro—where, as the image up top shows, they gathered behind a police barricade across from opponents—the organizers ultimately canceled the march and rally. Griffin described the city as a “lawsuit trap” to CNN. Following the Charlottesville event, The League of the South was listed as a defendant in a lawsuit that accused it and other armed White supremacist groups of violating state and federal laws prohibiting non-regulated paramilitaries.
The Post adds that White supremacists attacked an interracial couple at a nearby Brentwood, Tennessee, restaurant on Saturday. A Metropolitan Nashville Police Department press release says that 20 to 30 White men and women from the rally picked a fight with a Black man and his White girlfriend, who was cut over her eye when a White supremacist punched her.