Sights and sounds from a White Lives Matter protest in Shelbyville Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017.
Lacy Atkins / The Tennessean
(Photo: Shelley Mays / The Tennessean)
Downtown Murfreesboro was desolate late Saturday afternoon after hours of chanting and protests that had rippled through the city.
Law enforcement announced plans to remove barriers from the downtown square after white nationalists called off a planned White Lives Matter Rally there. Counterprotesters, who had gathered across the city, ended their events as the rally petered out.
White nationalists were overwhelmingly outnumbered by counterprotesters in Murfreesboro.
About 800 to 1,000 counterprotesters gathered in Murfreesboro to oppose the rally, chanting "Murfreesboro loves," "refugees are welcome here" and "this is what democracy looks like." About 30 white nationalists showed up at the rally in the square in downtown Murfreesboro.
Two White Lives Matter rallies were held in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro, TN.
By 3:15 p.m., the League of the South, the group that got the permit for the Murfreesboro event, had decided not to participate.
White nationalists led a rally in Shelbyville earlier Saturday, and while crowds there were antagonistic there was no reported violence.
More: White Lives Matter Murfreesboro rally: What we know now
Authorities in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro kept white nationalists and counterprotesters separated.
The USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee has journalists on the ground and will be continuously providing updates. Check back and keep refreshing this page for the latest.
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5:22 p.m. Murfreesboro: The City of Murfreesboro has updated the number of counterprotesters on scene Saturday, saying 800 to 1000 counterprotesters were screened for prohibited items before entering the square.
No injuries or damages were reported, according to a statement from the city. Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh and Murfreesboro Interim Police Chief Michael Bowen said they were pleased the rally was held without major incidents.
3:45 p.m. Murfreesboro: Murfreesboro city officials announced via Twitter that no arrests had been made. Crowds have largely exited the square.
3:20 p.m. Murfreesboro: The spokesman for the League of the South offered two explanations for canceling the Murfreesboro rally. On Twitter, he said long security lines in Shelbyville delayed the group. He also accused Murfreesboro of being a "lawsuit trap."
3 p.m. Murfreesboro: U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., has released a statement condemning the white nationalists who organized today’s events.
“While the Constitution gives everyone the right to assemble, the Constitution makes it absolutely clear that we are all Americans without regard to race," Alexander said. "The views of the white nationalists, Nazis, white supremacists and the Klan are wrong, they are un-American, they are not welcome, and we need to be loud and clear about that.”
Members of Antifa arrive in the downtown Murfreesboro square to counterprotest a White Lives Matter rally.
2:55 p.m. Murfreesboro: A few more demonstrators have filtered into the white nationalist side of the rally. A family with a small child is doing Nazi salutes.
2:50 p.m. Murfreesboro: A group of about 15 white nationalists who had gathered in the downtown square left. As they were leaving, more than 100 counterprotesters chanted "black lives matter" and "na na na na goodbye."
Murfreesboro city officials said the rally was continuing "without reports of incident."
2:30 p.m. Murfreesboro: Organizers of the Murfreesboro Loves gathering, which was protesting the white nationalists, said they didn’t believe there would be a major contingency of white nationalists coming into the area via caravan.
A large group that had lined Church Street began dispersing and headed back to Barfield Crescent Park, where they had demonstrated earlier in the day.
2:20 p.m. Murfreesboro: The White Lives Matter rally in Murfreesboro is underway. City officials said as many as 500 people were in the downtown square.
White nationalists and counterprotesters are on opposite sides of the square. Fencing has been set up to keep the groups separate, and police are stationed in the 15-foot gap between the groups.
There are only about 15 white nationalists, but both sides are screaming and chanting at one another — and police have cautioned both sides to temper their shouting.
Counterprotesters have chanted "Nazis go home" and "shame" at the white nationalists.
1:48 p.m. Shelbyville: Shelbyville police Lt. Brian Crews confirmed one person was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct during the White Lives Matter Rally there.
Crews said the arrested man — identified as John Gill Anderson, 20, of Bell Buckle, Tenn. — was cited for disorderly conduct after he exhibited "threatening behavior.”
WHITE LIVES MATTER RALLY IN TENNESSEE
“He refused to cease and desist when told,” Crews said.
Anderson said in an interview that he was a counterprotester and had gone to talk to the white nationalists because, “I was hoping to have a productive conversation or argument."
Otherwise, Crews said, “everything went lovely.”
“As far as we know everything is over. We’re taking down our fences."
1:33 p.m. Murfreesboro: White nationalist demonstrators tried to enter the downtown square through the wrong security checkpoint and were escorted out by authorities.
Police have established separate checkpoints for the white nationalists and counterprotesters in an attempt to keep the groups from clashing.
1:31 p.m. Murfreesboro: After marching down Veterans Parkway, about 350 people gathered on a sidewalk on Church Street south of the parkway. As the group descended on the heavily trafficked area, employees at a Walgreens located at the intersection could be seen taking photos of the crowd from the doorway of the store.
Chants of "show me what democracy looks like, this is what democracy looks like" and “Murfreesboro loves,” the group ignored the chilly air while awaiting the caravan of white nationalists who are expected to head through on their way to the downtown square. Car honks and even an occasional horn from a semi truck could be heard as the crowd awaited the caravan.
Farris Ralston, 61, and Shana Minkin, 43, who made the one-hour drive from their homes in Sewanee to participate in the gathering.
"These people our trampling on my heart," said Ralston. "Our country was not made for a bunch of fascists."
When asked what the White Lives Matter gathering says about Tennessee, Minkin pointed to the chanting crowd.
"This is the message," Minkin said.
12:55 p.m. Shelbyville: White nationalists have said say they are leaving Shelbyville and heading to a second rally in Murfreesboro.
12:35 p.m. Shelbyville: Police have detained one person at the White Lives Matter rally in Shelbyville. Officers went into the white nationalist side of the street and pulled a young white man out of the crowd. They put him into a police vehicle.
12:28 p.m. Shelbyville: The permit for the rally in Shelbyville ends at 1 p.m., and some people have started to leave. The crowd of counterprotesters who came to oppose the white nationalists has dwindled a bit, from more than 400 to about 350.
12:20 p.m. Murfreesboro: Counterprotesters who have gathered in anticipation of a white nationalist rally this afternoon in Murfreesboro are marching through city streets.
They carried signs and chanted "refugees are welcome here" and "this is what democracy looks like."
12:14 p.m. Shelbyville: White nationalists and counterprotesters have tried to drown each other out with dueling chants.
Counterprotesters have chanted "black lives matter," sang the hymn "I’ll Fly Away" and have called out the name of Heather Heyer, a woman who was killed by a suspected white nationalist at a Charlottesville rally.
White nationalists chanted "blood and soil." Michael Hill, president of the League of the South said "Hail Dixie" and "Hail victory!" over the loudspeakers.
By 12:14, about 200 white nationalists and about 400 counterprotesters were on site.
11:52 a.m. Shelbyville: The White Lives Matter rally is well underway, with white nationalists addressing the crowd over a loud speaker.
As Brian Culpepper of the National Socialist Movement took the microphone to speak, counterprotesters played Martin Luther King Jr.’s "I Have a Dream" speech over their own speaker system, largely overpowering the sound of Culpepper.
Law enforcement has funneled the white nationalists and counterprotesters onto sidewalks on opposite sides of a four-lane road.
Barriers on each side are keeping people off of the street. Law enforcement is watching from the median of the street, with other officers standing by in a nearby intersection.
The permit for the White Lives Matter rally in Shelbyville ends at 1 p.m.
11:30 a.m. Murfreesboro: More than 400 counterprotesters at Barfield Crescent Park have gathered against the White Lives Matter rally. They plan to split up into three groups as the rally draws closer.
One group will drive to Old Fort Park where they will display signs. A second group will march to Church Street where a caravan of white nationalists plans to pass on the way to downtown Murfreesboro. The third group will stay at Barfield.
Organizers said they plan a peaceful rally and have asked those gathered not to use profane language. The organizers are also advising those within the group to steer clear of the downtown square.
11:30 a.m. Shelbyville: Sherry Walker, 57 of Murfreesboro is walking through the crowd of counterprotesters with burning sage.
“It’s for cleansing and healing and peace,” she said. “The smoke is lifting our prayers to heaven.“
11:20 a.m. Shelbyville: At least 160 white nationalists have come to the Shelbyville rally. More than 300 counterprotesters are there.
11 a.m. Shelbyville: Thor Henderson, a grand officer in Georgia for the International Keystone Knights, a Ku Klux Klan group, said he was marching to bring awareness to the September shooting at an Antioch church.
Some people there had "tradworker" written on their shields — alluding to the Traditionalist Worker Party, another white supremacy group. On their website, that group also listed the shooting as a reason to participate in the rally.
One woman was killed and seven others were injured in the church shooting; the suspect, Emanuel Kidega Samson, is a legal U.S. resident from Sudan.
"We’ve been here marching for the white peoples’ rights," said Henderson. "Making a stand and bringing awareness to what’s going on. Like the shooting a black man walking into a white church shot up several people you don’t hear hardly nothing about that on the news. One white man walks into a black church and it’s national news forever. We just bring awareness to the stuff that’s going on and maybe we can wake up the general public and just open their eyes."
Henderson said he did not anticipate violence.
"If there are we will not be the aggressors on this. We’ll just be the defenders."
10:45 a.m. Murfreesboro: Law enforcement is preparing for the second white supremacist rally set to take place later today in Murfreesboro.
The Murfreesboro rally is set to begin at 1:30 p.m., although that could change. Police said they will try to keep protesters and counterprotesters separate.
Officers are stationed on roofs around the downtown square and canine officers are barking in cars along the square.
10:40 a.m. Shelbyville: Some police officers have stationed on the roof of a strip mall with binoculars and long guns.
Kat Chambers of Jackson, Miss., drove six hours to participate in the counter-protest. She said she was there representing her own group: Cat Ladies Against Racist Morons.
Her homemade sign had a spray bottle with the words “no no no!”
“I don’t want Nazis on the street of my country, not my state, not your state.”
10:30 a.m. Shelbyville: White nationalists are marching to the protest site chanting, "Closed borders, white nation, now we start the deportation."
Many in the group are carrying large white shields emblazoned with black Xs.
Before they marched toward the security checkpoint an organizer asked the group to put their weapons back in their cars.
10:15 a.m. Shelbyville: White supremacists have arrived and are milling around in a parking lot about a block away.
Video from the scene showed a crowd of mostly men, some of them carrying shields or covering their faces with masks or bandannas.
10:05 a.m. Shelbyville: The first members of the League of the South, a white nationalist group that helped organize the White Lives Matter rally, have arrived and are making their way through security.
10 a.m. Shelbyville: Chad Bagwell, 30, of Centre, Ala. was among the first to arrive on the white nationalists’ side. When he got there at 9:30, the convoy of other protesters hadn’t arrived and police weren’t letting him in to the protest area.
Bagwell held an American flag and was wearing a red Make America Great Again hat. He said he planned to bring a Confederate flag, as well, but forgot it.
He said he learned about the rally through a friend on a social networking website. His friend thought he might enjoy attending the White Lives Matter rally, Centre said, which he understood to be about refugee resettlement.
He drove two hours to attend Saturday’s protest.
"I don’t have nothing against refugees, but I do think they need stricter vetting for it," Bagwell said.
9:45 a.m. Shelbyville: About 60 people are in line on the counter-protesters side waiting to be frisked and checked with wands for weapons. Many are carrying signs denouncing Nazis and wearing red bandannas around their necks and arms.
Vegas Longlois came from Birmingham with other members of the Democratic Socialists of America.
“We cant let hate go unchecked in the nation,” said the 23-year-old. She said refugee populations need to know they are supported.
"The goal for today is to really push back on the narrative that both sides are in the wrong here," Longlois said. "There is one side here promoting hate and there is one side here saying, ‘Not in our town."
Tommy Robinson, 45, of Shelbyville will be standing with the counter protesters but said he is neutral.
“I’m just out here to watch and see what will happen. I believe in free speech," Robinson said. "Let them say what they want and get out of here.
"This is a peaceful community.”
9:20 a.m. Shelbyville: About 40 minutes before protest was set to begin, more than 50 counter-protesters were waiting to get through a security checkpoint.
A woman is dressed like the statute of liberty. One young man has an “Antifa” flag, the sign for a movement of anti-Fascist, far-left protest groups, draped around him.
There were no signs of white nationalists yet.
9:20 a.m. Murfreesboro: The square is largely empty. Police cars, including Murfreesboro Police, TBI and state troopers, were stationed at every access point to the square.
SWAT teams were also moving through the area and at least three armored trucks were on hand.
Businesses had boarded up windows even blocks from the square. Access to alleys heading into the area was blocked.
9 a.m. Shelbyville: Law enforcement from cities and counties around the state is in place ahead of the protest and counter protest. Officers from Lincoln, Coffee and Bedford counties are on sight, as are officers from Shelbyville, Columbia, Manchester, Fayetteville, Lewisburg and Nashville.
The National Guard, the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation are on hand to monitor the situation in a support role.
Officers are carrying long batons and wearing helmets with face shields. Some have semi-automatic weapons. Patrol vehicles lined spaces in the parking lot of a shuttered shopping center on Lane Parkway, next to the intersection where white nationalists and counter-protesters will oppose each other behind barricades.
Conditions are cold and cloudy, but the rain has stopped.
3 a.m. Murfreesboro: Police close off the area around Public Square. Check here for the full list of closures.
Natalie Allison, Mariah Timms, Nancy De Gennaro, Stephanie Ingersoll, Scott Broden, Joel Ebert, Dave Boucher, Eric Bacharach, Ayrika Whitney and Jason Gonzlaes contributed to this report.