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Protesters confront white supremacists in Tennessee

By Preston Gilmore

Some of the protesters at the American Renaissance (AmRen) white supremacist con

Dickson, TN – Community members, activists and students, including Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), converged on Montgomery Bell Park in Dickson County, Tennessee on the weekend of April 5-7 to demand the park not host the American Renaissance (AmRen) white supremacist conference. On April 5 and 6, they rallied outside the Montgomery Bell Park Inn and Conference Center, where the racists’ conference was being hosted. Protesters demanded “Shut down AmRen!” and held a conference of their own on Saturday to discuss ways to fight back against racism, white supremacy and to build the power of the people.

Protesters had agreed that they would confront the white supremacists regardless of Park Manager Pat Wright and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation's (TDEC) efforts to suppress free speech by denying all permit requests related to protesting AmRen's presence in the park. However, after intense public pressure and thousands of phone calls to the state, park officials and TDEC caved to some of the protesters' demands on April 5. Just a few hours before protesters planned to rally outside the inn and conference center, the state finally issued a demonstration permit after repeated permit denials.

The AmRen conference drew neo-nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, holocaust deniers, anti-immigration thugs and other racists, where they networked with each other and discussed building their organizational efforts. Protesters confronted the racists on April 5 as they gathered to register for their conference, chanting, “1,2,3,4 don’t go in that hotel door! 5,6,7,8 we don’t want no fascist state!” and “AmRen, AmRen racist fools, we don't like your attitude!” and holding signs saying, “Remember Stalingrad?”, “Go back to Europe!”, and “Inbreeding = bad genetics.”

An SDSer at the rally said, “Just last weekend we confronted the Klan in Memphis and now we are here fighting back against these terrorists again in this secluded park. The state of Tennessee has repeatedly shown itself to not only be useless in helping us stop fascists and racist terrorists from organizing, but to also do everything it can to facilitate their organizational efforts. But we are strong and unafraid and we get stronger with every confrontation. We are going to win. There is nowhere they can hide that we won't find them.”

On April 6, over 50 people gathered in a pavilion in the park to hold a counter-conference, where speakers discussed the history of white supremacy, slavery and genocide in the U.S. and strategies for fighting back against racism. There were also several speakers and workshops concerning LGBTQ liberation and women's liberation that focused on highlighting the ways these struggles are intertwined with other liberation struggles. Speakers stressed the importance of not only combating white supremacy ideologically but also the importance of confronting them in the streets. A speaker from United Mountain Defense said, “If fear of violence keeps you from confronting evil, evil will always win. It is only through confrontation that the truth comes out. There can be no excuse for inaction.”

After the counter-conference was over, people took the streets and marched on the conference center where the white supremacists had gathered. Marchers held signs and red flags and chanted, “Shut down AmRen! Shut down AmRen!” Once protesters were outside the conference center, a few AmRen attendees came out briefly to make their fascist sympathies clear with gestures such as the ‘seig heil’ nazi salute. Protesters began singing Woody Guthrie’s “All You Fascists Bound to Lose” and chanting “Smash the nazis! Stop the hate!” In short order, the neo-nazis and other white supremacists scurried to hide inside the conference center protected by police and park rangers. For several hours, until the sun set, protesters continued chanting, singing and demanding AmRen attendees to come out and show themselves.

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