Antifa Claims Victory After Alt-Right Pulls Out of Second Tennessee "White Lives Matter" Rally

Daryle Jenkins, a black, anti-racist organizer, asked for a brief moment of silence from an animated crowd of counterprotesters on the streets of Murfreesboro, Tennessee this afternoon before reading a tweet from one of the promoters of an alt-right "White Lives Matter" rally.

"Murfreesboro was a lawsuit trap. Not worth the risk. Murfreesboro canceled," he read from his phone, quoting the Twitter account of Brad Griffin, a white nationalist organizer.

Jenkins stopped short. A grin crept across his face, and applause erupted from the crowd. "Antifa" (short for antifascist) protesters chanted "Nazi punks f—k off!" Friends and strangers in the crowd exchanged hugs. The feeling of jubilation in the crowd at Murfreesboro was undergirded with a palpable sense of relief. Many of the anti-racist activists had just traveled to Murfreesboro from Shelbyville, Tennessee where another "White Lives Matter" rally had taken place earlier in the day. There, surrounded by shuttered businesses, and counterprotesters, white demonstrators with dreams of creating an all-white country, created an atmosphere of tension and terror. Dressed in all black, the demonstrators shouted racial epithets into the crisp fall air. Through a series of speeches, they made the case for a national socialist country, or an explicitly Nazi America.

The dual rallies were targeted at refugees, according to the white nationalists and neo-Nazis that organized the event. Refugees, many of them Somali and Sudanese, are being resettled in middle Tennessee, causing subtle, but demonstrable changes to the state's demographics. Organizers for the rally argued that such refugees are somehow displacing white people, and that they harbor a dislike for whites and white culture. They referenced the mass shooting allegedly perpetrated by Sudanese-born Emanuel Kidega Samson in an Antioch, Tennessee church that claimed the life of one person and injured others as evidence of their claim. Samson, a 25-year-old man, it should be noted, is not at all a part of the recent influx of refugees, and had been living in America since he was a small child.

Sudanese and Somali refugees that have been resettled in Tennessee expressed horror about the incident allegedly involving Samson to Newsweek, as well as fears of repercussions from white nationalists prior to the rallies that took place today.

"Please don't come here with your hate," Juma Shaibu, a 38-year-old Sudanese refugee living in the Nashville area told Newsweek prior to the dual rallies. "We refugees live a humble life here."

"Interesting sign. Why Tom Brady?" "Oh, I just hate Tom Brady, that's all." #Shelbyville counterprotester opposing white lives matter rally

— Michael Edison Hayden (@MichaelEHayden) October 28, 2017

But Tennessee's resistance to the idea of white nationalism—and against the criticism of refugees—ultimately defined the day's events. Counterprotesters arrived earlier than the white nationalists in Shelbyville, and in greater number. When the white nationalists arrived in Shelbyville, they spoke across a barricade separating them from the rest of the city. They were shouted over by people mocking President Donald Trump, and people ridiculing the idea of America being a country founded only for whites. The counterprotesters not only came in greater numbers but were represented—in both Tennessee cities—by a range of different ethnicities, faiths, and backgrounds by Americans rejecting the idea of Nazism with signs and organized chants.

Trevor Childress, a war veteran and self-described white "redneck" from Tennessee chanted "we win" after the news of the second rally in Murfreesboro was canceled. He talked to Newsweek about his participation in the protests, which he said had to do with America's history of fighting Nazism during World War II. He spoke passionately of his grandfather fighting against Nazis in the war, explaining why he came out to protest against the planned rallies.

"The people who do that? I thought we done got rid of them to begin with," Childress said of the Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany. "We're here to get rid of them again if they need us to."