Anti-fascists (also known as Antifa) plan to rally against a coalition of white supremacists and neo-Nazis at a “White Lives Matter” rally in the US state of Tennessee on Friday and Saturday.
A torchlit march is slated to take place on Friday night at a local university in Murfreesboro, a small town, and the main white supremacist event, which has been dubbed “White Lives Matter“, will be held on Saturday in nearby Shelbyville.
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Another rally is expected to be held on Saturday in Murfreesboro’s main square.
The events were called by the Nationalist Front, a coalition that includes the neo-Confederate League of the South, the neo-fascist Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP), Vanguard America and the National Socialist Movement (NSM).
Daryl Lamont Jenkins, an anti-fascist researcher and founder of the One People’s Project, expects there to be “a much larger anti-fascist presence” than that of the far-right groups.
Jenkins said he would travel to Tennessee to participate in the counterprotest.
“All of these guys expressed violent intentions at some level or another well before they actually acted it out,” he said. “We’ll be prepared for that.”
Jenkins added: “They are saying over and over again that this is a war, and they view every action as a form of self-defence, which it is not.”
It’s Going Down, a website that publishes anarchist and anti-fascist news, republished a call to action in advance of the white supremacist gathering.
“This a call to action to mobilise and occupy the sidewalk in front of Forrest Hall [at the university] as the agenda of this group includes attacking multi-cultural students by spreading white supremacist ideology and racist rhetoric,” the post read.
Among the speakers for the white supremacist events are TWP’s Matthew Heimbach, the League of the South’s Michael Hill and the NSM’s Jeff Schoep.
At the time of publication, neither the NSM nor the League of the South had replied to Al Jazeera’s requests for a comment.
In Murfreesboro, more than 120 local organisations and businesses are planning to participate in a counterdemonstration, according to a joint press release published on Thursday. They expect more than 1,000 community members will join the counterprotest.
In a statement released before the events, the League of the South’s Hill urged attendees to abstain from breaking the law and to respect authorities.
“Engage in violence, and at the proper level, only in defence of your own person, that of your compatriots, and your property,” he wrote.
“Stand your ground, speak your mind, and proclaim your message, but do not initiate physical contact with anyone who opposes you.”
In an event update published by Occidental Dissent, a white supremacist website, organisers said that they chose Shelbyville to “avoid any type of clash with violent Antifa protesters”.
Occidental Dissent instructed attendees to chant “blood and soil” and “you will not replace us”, slogans that have become common at recent white supremacist rallies.
In August, white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the city’s decision to remove a Confederate statue. The rally, dubbed “Unite the Right”, descended into chaos, with participants clashing with community members, anti-racists and anti-fascists across the city.
James Alex Fields, a 20-year-old Ohio resident who marched in Unite the Right, allegedly ploughed his car into an anti-racist march and killed 32-year-old activist Heather Heyer and injured at least 19 others. He was subsequently charged with second-degree murder and a slew of other charges.
Richard Spencer, a leading figure in the alt-right, subsequently had a number of speaking events blocked and cancelled at universities across the country. Several other far-right protests were also cancelled.
The alt-right is a loose coalition of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and white nationalists who advocate a white ethnostate.
Last week, Spencer was permitted to speak at the University of Florida in Gainesville. The event was met with a large anti-fascist protest.
By the end of the day, three white supremacists were arrested and charged with attempted homicide after one of them shot in the direction of anti-fascist demonstrators during a confrontation.
An alleged alt-right planning document obtained by anti-fascists suggested that the trio had travelled to Gainesville with Patriot Front, a neo-fascist group, as part of Spencer’s operational programme.
Fears prompt cancellations
The Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), where the Nationalist Front plans to hold a torchlit rally on Friday night, has cancelled a student band competition that was meant to take place on Saturday, according to local media.
“We decided it was wise to reduce traffic to the surrounding area Saturday and these decisions will allow our police and other security personnel to be available elsewhere on campus if needed,” MTSU President Sidney McPhee said in an email to the university community that was published by News Channel 5 in Nashville, Tennessee.
The university also said it would lock down two student dorm facilities in response to the White Lives Matter rally.
In Murfreesboro, city officials urged locals to avoid the town centre during the rally, the local Daily News Journal reported.
Mark Bray, author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, is not convinced that the far right has been able to overcome deep internal divisions that were exacerbated in the wake of Charlottesville.
“Since the far right and white supremacists have been emboldened over the last couple of years, they are not going to just completely roll over after Charlottesville,” he said.
“But it seems to me the aspirations of building a broader movement that transcends the divides that keep them marginalised – I don’t see that happening.”