About 300 white nationalists and neo-Nazis took to the streets of the small Tennessee city of Shelbyville on Saturday to protest refugee resettlement in the state, which sued the federal government over the issue earlier this year.
The “White Lives Matter” rally, organized by some of the same groups involved in a Virginia march in August that turned violent, drew an equal number of counter-demonstrators and a heavy police presence.
After Shelbyville, the protesters were due to travel about 35 miles north to Murfreesboro for a second rally.
The two cities are just southeast of Nashville, whose metropolitan area has become home to refugees from Somalia, Iraq and elsewhere.
The day’s protests were organized by the Nationalist Front, a coalition including the League of the South and Vanguard America, considered neo-Nazi or neo-Confederate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.
“We don’t want the federal government to keep dumping all these refugees into middle Tennessee,” said Brad Griffin, a League of the South member who has written about his desire to create a white “ethnostate.”
To help keep the peace, Shelbyville police used temporary fencing to separate the white nationalists from counter-demonstrators in a central protest area. Anyone seeking to enter the area was searched. Guns, sticks, backpacks and items that might double as weapons were banned.
The white nationalist demonstrators gathered behind a half dozen white shields emblazoned with red crosses. Counter-protesters carried signs with slogans including “Don’t Hate” and “Veterans for Peace.” (Reuters)