It was the first outing of the Nationalist Coalition since Charlottesville. It might as well have been the last.
Before Saturday was done, the neo-Nazis that attempted to rally in Middle Tennessee embarrassed themselves by starting their first rally late, canceling their second rally, fleeing a planned picnic when they feared the opposition was coming, leaving the campfire still burning as they fled, cancelling other events planned at area churches in fear of antifa and attacking an interracial couple in a restaurant later that evening, which was the second time they engaged in violence. Meanwhile, those opposing them remained peaceful and declared the day a victory against the hate mongers.
Bradley Griffin, who was one of the main organizers of what was being called a “White Lives Matter” rally, called it a do over of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA on Aug. 12, which saw the assembled neo-Fascists, most notably the coalition of groups that comprised the Nationalist Forum attacking counterprotesters, resulting in the death of 34-year-old Heather Heyer when James Fields, a participant in the rally, drove his vehicle into a crowd of people. Griffin is a member of the League of the South, who along with the National Socialist Movement (NSM), the organization White Lives Matter, Traditionalist Worker Party and various Klan groups comprise the Nationalist Front, and it was under that banner that the rallies in Shelbyville and nearby Murfreesboro were planned.
And while Griffin in what he called an “autopsy” of the events in Tennessee said that they met their objective to show that it was the lack of police protection for them that caused the events in Charlottesville, antifa and other opponents of the two rallies only saw fear and disorganization on the part of the neo-Fascists putting them on.
The rally participants were overwhelmed in numbers by the counterdemonstrators, which were kept at a distance from the “White Lives Matter” rally. Local law enforcement in Shelbyville posted signs at the rally entrances for both protest areas indicating that weapons, helmets shields and the like will not be allowed within them, but the NF members were allowed to bring them within their area regardless. At one point, journalist John Ziegler was reportedly attacked with those shields by a number of the NF participants, including NSM leader Jeff Schoep and member Kynan Dutton, who was previously known for joining White supremacist Craig Cobb in the small town of Leith, North Dakota in a failed effort to turn the town into a Whites-only enclave, and later pled guilty to several misdemeanors stemming from charges that he and Cobb threatened residents.
— ChuckModi (@ChuckModi1) October 29, 2017
This was not the only time the NF associates engaged in violence in Shelbyville on Saturday or otherwise alluded to it. Tess Owen of VICE News tweeted that she was told by one attendee that “as a female reporter out on my own, I was ‘lucky I didn’t get raped.’”
— Tess Owen (@misstessowen) October 28, 2017
And a 20-year-old man was attacked by a League of the South member and later arrested on disorderly conduct charges. The man, Jack Anderson told local news that he was simply on his lunch break and was curious as to what the rally was about. ” A man approached me and asked what my name is and who I’m with, and I told him that’s none of his business and tried to walk past him, and he grabbed me on the arm and said I’m going to hold you until the cops get you. He put me in a headlock and I had other people kinda holding onto my arms and shouting at me,” Anderson said. “I think they were trying to provoke me.”
Anderson managed to wrestle away but was arrested by Shelbyville Police. He plans on fighting the disorderly conduct charge in court.
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) October 30, 2017
In Murfreesboro, the scene was different as counterprotesters filled the streets waiting for the neo-Fascists to finish their rally in Shelbyville and come to their town as planned. With the exception of a small few of them hardly any of them showed. Sometime after 3:00 PM, which was near the end of their permit for the day, Griffin announced via Tweet that the rally was canceled in Murfreesboro because it seemed to be a “lawsuit trap” and “not worth the risk.” Upon hearing the news, the assembled counterprotesters cheered hugged each other and chanted the title of the Dead Kennedys song, “Nazi punks fuck off!”
— Michael E. Hayden (@MichaelEHayden) October 28, 2017
Bradley Griffin later wrote that the police in Shelbyville slowed their group to a crawl at the protest checkpoint that meant for them Murfreesboro was not worth their time. “Murfreesboro was cancelled because our schedule was thrown off and intel that it was a lawsuit trap waiting to happen, he wrote. “We will never know if it would have gone down peacefully. I don’t see how Antifa could have possibly attacked and started a riot with such stringent rules.”
The Free Hugs Project however, released a video where police officers in Murfreesboro noted that the organizers canceled the rally there because unlike in Shelbyville, they were not going to be allowed to bring their shields and helmets into the protest area.
The counterdemonstrators in both towns were mostly comprised of area residents, but many came out from other areas of the country, notably Philadelphia, Ferguson, Missouri and Atlanta. Some antifa were wore the name “Heather” on their masks as a tribute to Heather Heyer. While some were armed, all remained peaceful. Some businesses and restaurants closed boarded up their windows near the rally sites and a high school band competition planned for that day was canceled, but another event was organized to salvage the event in a nearby community. Meanwhile, some right wing journalists, particularly from the mainstream neo-Fascist website Breitbart mingled with the counterdemonstrators, as well as others who defended the White Lives Matter rally.
When it was learned that the neo-Fascists has abandoned Murfreesboro for a picnic in Henry Horton Park 45 minutes away, antifa began to advance there. Reporters made it to the park first and after briefly talking with them, they quickly abandoned the park realizing that antifa were going to be there soon, even leaving the fire they built in one of the grills still burning. They also had to abandon a planned vigil at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in nearby Antioch, TN where on Sept. 24, a Sudanese immigrant opened fire on parishoners, killing churchgoer Melanie Crow, an incident that they hoped to exploit for their anti-immigration campaign. “Unfortunately, we announced this at Henry Horton State Park in the presence of several reporters, and somehow Louisville Antifa was tipped off about a “torchlight march” at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ,” Griffin wrote. “In order to avoid those violent people attacking us at a church while we mourned our dead, I had to call it off at the last minute.”
Later that evening, another act of violence reportedly at the hands of Matthew Heimbach’s Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP) took place at the Corner Pub in Brentwood. According to Unicorn Riot, TWP members began harassing an inter-racial couple that was eating there. A white woman also in the restaurant intervened, and was struck in the face. As police investigate the incident, Heimbach, who was seen in a video of the incident, charged the couple with attacking them, While Griffin speaking to a local news outlet distanced the White Lives Matter rally from this incident. “Our opinion is that it had nothing to do with the event, “he said. “The event was over around 3:30 when we left Henry Horton Park. Everyone just left to go to a lot of different places, return home. The League of the South and a bunch of other groups we stayed around our rooms all night. I woke up to the news. So, in our view it didn’t have anything to do with the event it was a TWP matter.”
A bi-racial couple allegedly attacked tonight by neo-Nazis after a Tennessee rally, beating the white woman bloody. pic.twitter.com/wbS5ZMrnGr
— Jack Smith IV (@JackSmithIV) October 29, 2017
The white nationalists uploaded and sent me videos they took of the fight. They believe it shows her swinging first. Watch for yourself: pic.twitter.com/5EnbjSEKeH
— Jack Smith IV (@JackSmithIV) October 29, 2017
The next rally involving members of the Nationalist Front might be in Charlotte, NC on Dec. 28, but the current status of that event is unclear.
Read more about the Tennessee action at Unicorn Riot.