A proposed “White Lives Matter” rally planned for Saturday, Oct. 28, in Murfreesboro and Shelbyville is already disrupting the local business community as officials prepare for the demonstrators, and subsequent counterprotesters, to arrive at downtown areas that day.
On Oct. 19, Rutherford County and Murfreesboro officials met with members of the Downtown Murfreesboro Business Alliance for a discussion regarding the plans for Oct. 28.
Local law enforcement officials encouraged Murfreesboro residents to avoid the downtown area on Oct. 28, and to expect much of the usual business activity to remain absent from the Square that day.
“We hope we have a peaceful . . . whatever this is,” Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief Egon Grissom told the DMBA members and supporters, but he assured them that any violence or vandalism would be met with a very strong law enforcement presence on the Square the day of the white nationalist gathering. Law enforcement officers from surrounding communities plan to come to Murfreesboro on Oct. 28 to join the Murfreesboro Police Department and the RCSO on the Square, but Grissom said that he encourages Murfreesboro residents to stay away from the Square that day.
In fact, Grissom says he expects law enforcement to block not only vehicular but pedestrian traffic to the Murfreesboro Public Square much of the day on Oct. 28, allowing only demonstrators associated with the White Lives Matter cause to have access to the Square, though he also stated, “We are not rolling out the red carpet for these groups . . . we’re here to protect everyone.”
Grissom also stated that the RCSO recommends downtown area merchants close their stores altogether that day, but “we can not keep you from going into your own businesses.”
Kathleen Herzog confirmed that the Murfreesboro Saturday Market, slated to have its last market of the season on Oct. 28, will not be held that day, and will end its 2017 season on Oct. 21.
Owners of Puckett’s Grocery, Trendy Pieces and other Murfreesboro businesses expressed frustration over losing a fall Saturday’s revenue. Judy Goldie, co-owner of Trendy Pieces and Bella’s Boutique, says she has accepted the loss, but encourages the community to be sure and patronize the downtown Murfreesboro establishments the weekdays prior to the proposed Oct. 28 rally.
Shawn Templeton, co-owner of Woodsviking Barber Shop said that his shop may typically see 200 customers on a Saturday. Nonetheless, the owners agreed closing their shop was the right decision, Templeton said, adding that he didn’t want any of his customers to be put in an awkward situation on Oct. 28.
Groups such as League of the South, Vanguard America, National Socialist Movement and the Traditionalist Workers Party are promoting the Oct. 28 rallies in Murfreesboro and Shelbyville using such slogans as “Freedom of Speech . . . Freedom for Safe Borders . . . Freedom to Be White.” The National Socialist Movement advocates for “only those of pure white blood” to have full citizenship and voting rights (“no Jew or homosexual may be a member of the nation”) and that “all non-white immigration must be prevented.”
Dr. Michael Hill, a retired university professor who spoke at the recent Charlottesville, Virginia, white nationalist rally that resulted in violent conflicts with Antifa, Black Lives Matter and other groups, plans to be among the speakers at the Oct. 28 Murfreesboro event. Hill’s message is that the South (and the rest of America) is being overrun by hordes of non-white immigrants, that the blacks, Yankees and Jews cause the problems in the U.S., and that the country has an open-borders policy that encourages massive Third World immigration, leading to terrorist attacks and “cultural destabilization.”
In response to the White Lives Matter event, many Murfreesboro residents plan an alternate Oct. 28 event under the name “Murfreesboro Loves.” The supporters of this group, many of whom have spoken out in support of refugee resettlement in Middle Tennessee, plan to meet at Barfield Park.
“This is an excellent way to join together to celebrate our rights and show our unity against those who would show any type of racism,” longtime Murfreesboro resident Steve Cates posted on social media in regard to Murfreesboro Loves.
“Thanks to our county and city leaders who are working to ensure that the right to protest peacefully is maintained and, at the same time, working to make sure that there is indeed ‘peace’ in our downtown area during this period of time,” Cates continued. “We owe a strong debt of gratitude to our law enforcement personnel and first responders . . . I urge all to make their jobs less difficult by following the lead of those who are suggesting we stay away from the Courthouse Square and Downtown area where any potential trouble may occur.”
Many criticized Charlottesville law enforcement for not stepping in with more authority prior to violence breaking out during the August protests there.
But Murfreesboro officials say they aim to keep Antifa and its supporters—which have circulated “calls to action” on social media, encouraging Antifa to descend upon the Murfreesboro Public Square during the Oct. 28 rally—away from the Square and the White Lives Matter supporters.
“We’re going to meet these people with enough police presence they will think twice before doing anything crazy,” one MPD officer said.