Racial tension in America continues to seethe.
Two cities in Middle Tennessee are bracing for white supremacy rallies scheduled to take place this Saturday.
Shelbyville has been announced as the first rally location Saturday morning before the groups are expected to travel to Murfreesboro that afternoon. Anticipating the worst, dozens of stores in those towns will be closed and law enforcement assistance has been requested from the federal government.
“I just hope everyone goes home safe,” said David Clark, a Shelbyville native who is trying to offset incoming visitors with a peace rally. “Everyone in town is at the least apprehensive, at the most scared to death.”
The League of the South based in Killen, Ala., is spearheading the rallies. According to the group’s website, “The purpose of the demonstration will be to support the idea that White Lives Matter, to call attention to the continuing influx of African immigrants/ refugees into Middle Tennessee, and to protest the recent black-on-white church shooting in Antioch.”
According to an online post Wednesday night from The League of the South president Michael Hill, he says Saturday’s rally participants should not “verbally incite illegal behavior.”
Hill also says, “Engage in violence, and at the proper level, only in defense of your own person, that of your compatriots, and your property. Stand your ground, speak your mind, and proclaim your message, but do not initiate physical contact with anyone who opposes you.”
Avoiding violence didn’t happen this summer during a white nationalist rally in Chalottesville, Va., when a car plowed into a crowd of people after a day of violence. One woman was killed and dozens injured by the right-wing demonstrator behind the wheel.
Shelbyville police are hoping to keep League of the South rally participants separate from the group protesting their presence. They have set up areas for the two groups three blocks apart and say they will strictly enforce the boundaries.
Clark says he and his group have no plans to stay away from the alt-right, conservative rally.
“We’re going to be nonviolent, but we’re going to stand up to them,” said Clark. “They will just get more embolden if we don’t do anything. A year ago, I wouldn’t have thought anything about a rally like this. But this is a group that’s well organized, well funded and well backed. If no one stands up to them, they will keep getting bigger.”
Clark said the League of the South didn’t blindly draw Shelbyville out of a hat. He said it was a calculated move based on the town’s large minority population.
“I’m surprised they didn’t pick McMinnville, but I’m sure you’re on their map,” he said.
In a story released Tuesday on its website, the Shelbyville Times-Gazette said at least nine businesses had already announced they would be closed Saturday. A festival called Boo & Brew was also canceled Saturday in Shelbyville, the newspaper reported.
The rally is expected to gravitate to Murfreesboro on Saturday afternoon. According to the National Socialist Movement, a pro-white organization, it will be joining League of the South and the Traditionalist Workers Party, a white supremacist group, at both rallies.
As a result of the Murfreesboro rally, the Daily News Journal reports several fall events have been canceled. Thousands of demonstrators are expected in each city.
MTSU has canceled several events and will lock all residence halls on Saturday.
Oaklands Mansion is canceling its fall festival, one of its biggest fundraisers which typically nets around $10,000.
“This decision was made after consultation with law enforcement, city officials, and other agencies,” said Oaklands Mansion executive director James Manning in a Facebook post. “We have determined this is in the best interest of our guests, staff, and the historic site. ... Safety is, and must always be, our number one concern.”