This just might be the last AmRen conference at this location, if Jared Taylor still has them at all. That remains to be seen, but we think he might want to forget AmRen 2017 ever happened.
BURNS, TN – Days before the 2017 American Renaissance (AmRen) Conference was to commence at Montgomery Bell Park Inn, White Supremacist organizer Jared Taylor was suggesting that this might be the last conference he holds there, saying that the conference has overgrown the venue. “If we had not had to turn people away, we would have had about 400 or 450,” Taylor told local media.
The timing is curious for Taylor to suggest he may be seeking other locations, given that the largest group to oppose the AmRen Conference in the past six years also came out this weekend, which for the first time included community leaders and local Democrats where the park is located, and also the first time many of them have ever spoke out against the White Supremacists that have been making their town home since 2012. The conference also saw violence and arrests for possibly the first time in its over twenty year history when someone reportedly attending the conference attacked an antifascist protester resulting in the arrests of both, and the attendee suffering injuries that reportedly resulted in him being airlifted to a hospital in nearby Nashville.
Over 150 persons attended the counter-conference and protest of the AmRen Conference, which itself saw approximately 200 persons, most of them young men, The AmRen Conference was taking place over the weekend, and unlike past conferences at the park, generated more attention from media and the community, many of whom were not aware that the Conference had been taken place there all these years. A press conference was held at the entrance way of the park by the local chapter of the NAACP.
For the most part, the rally took place on a hill overlooking the Inn, but often it would move to the Inn itself, with protesters routinely sitting on benches and chairs just outside the entrance heckling the assembled neo-Fascists as they entered or left or just chanting outside. Because the venue was a publicly-owned facility, the public, including protesters were allowed to enter regularly as well, until park rangers began to restrict entry, which protest organizers say was a violation of their permit. Fewer AmRen attendees than in year’s past chose to go outside the Inn and most of them remained inside as the protests took place. Some, like Daniel Friberg, a Swedish mining executive who has bankrolled several White Supremacist endeavors, including his own conference in Stockholm several months ago, came out to engage the opposition, although Jared Taylor himself ushered him back into the Inn. Others that attended the conference were Richard Spencer, the President of National Policy Institute, Evan McLaren, who was announced this past week as NPI’s new Executive Director, Nathan Damingo and members of his group Identity Evropa and Simon Roche, the leader of a South African neo-fascist milita group called the Suidlanders.
AmRen protests have always remained peaceful if not at times loud and boisterous, but this year the conference saw violence for the first time when one of the attendees, William Markley of Ohio, reportedly attacked John Carico of The Fifth Column. Although Carico defended himself in a fight that saw both tumbling down a hill and into the water at the bottom, both were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. Carico suffered minor scrapes and brusies while the Markley had to be airlifted to a hospital for a CAT scan in Nashvile. News of that prompted several memes from antifa lampooning the regular threat from neo-fascists of “helicopter rides” – a tactic employed by the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet where his forces would take political dissidents in helicopters and push them into the Pacific Ocean – saying that antifa actually was responsible for one this time around.
According to other attendees, a visibly angry Jared Taylor began his remarks that day noting that one of the attendees “disobeyed” him by engaging in a physical altercation with protesters and that he was “disappointed”.
The prior lack of opposition in years’ past had been one of AmRen’s selling points whenever they would hold the conference, opposition being one of AmRen’s biggest roadblocks in other locations. In 2010, the conference was famously shut down in Washington, DC after several venues closed their doors to them, and in 2011 the same thing happened when they attempted to move the conference to Charlotte, North Carolina. Taylor chose Montgomery Bell Park because it was a publicly-owned facility that could not kick them out even if there are protests, “It is our statutory obligation to act in accordance with the law and to provide public facilities to all individuals or groups regardless of their beliefs, as long as the individuals and groups follow the law and park policies while visiting Tennessee State Parks,” Kim Schofinski, spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, told the Tennessean. Tennessee Park Service also felt compelled for the first time to post a sign that the participants rights to free speech were being respected and were not representative of any position of the park, which ironically was named after a slave owner who freed his slaves and even taught them to read and write at a time when it was illegal.
Curiously, the Nationalist Front, a coalition of groups led by Matthew Heimbach’s Traditionalist Worker Party and the National Socialist Movement tried to book a conference center within Jenny Wiley State Park – also a publicly-owned facility – just outside Pikeville, KY for a similar event, but the venue closed their doors to them citing safety concerns.
With the ascension of Donald Trump in recent years however, many groups who were not active against the White Supremacist groups and individuals in the past began to start coming out against them moreso as they attempt to use Trump’s presidency as a stepping stone to advance their agenda.