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Tennessee protesters rally against Nazis

By Preston Gilmore

Michael Sampson speaking at April 26 protest against white supremacists.

Dickson, TN – On April 26 Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) rallied outside of the Montgomery Bell Park Inn to confront a group of Nazis and white supremacists called American Renaissance or “AmRen.” Protesters held a banner, “Shut down AmRen,” and signs reading, “Hey Nazis, remember Stalingrad,” “Say no 2 racism,” and “All you fascists bound to lose.”

The protesters chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, AmRen has got to go!” and “Shut down AmRen! Shut down AmRen!” Across from the protest, a handful of Klansmen and Nazis dressed in suits huddled feebly around the entrance to the hotel. The suit and tie fascists took pictures of the anti-Nazi rally as speakers denounced fascism and white supremacy. The rally included speakers from the Dream Defenders, One People’s Project and local community leaders.

State and local police protected the AmRen white supremacists and hassled protesters. After following one carload of community organizers into Montgomery Bell Park, manager Pat Wright, himself a police officer, attempted to stop the anti-Nazi protesters from holding their rally outside the hotel. Protesters showed a permit signed by Pat Wright himself, agreeing to allow protesters to rally outside of the hotel. Officer Wright seemed unwilling to keep his word or follow his own rules. After reading the permit word for word and showing Officer Wright his own signature on the permit, Officer Wright demanded that protesters step back.

The protesters gathered to discuss how to respond to Officer Wright’s threats. They decided they were not afraid of Officer Pat Wright or the white supremacists and would rally as planned. Once Officer Wright saw protesters moving to begin the rally he asked to see the permit again and backed down.

Speakers at the rally pointed to the importance of organizing against the entire system of inequality that fosters the growth of hate groups such as AmRen. Fernando Figueroa said, “People traveled from different parts of the South to say no to Nazis, no to racism. Only a united front against the 1% can defeat bigotry and win a better future for our children.”

SDSer Ian Chambers challenged those who attempt to downplay the threat that hate groups such as American Renaissance pose to the community, “The Southern Poverty Law Center says that American Renaissance has not committed acts of violence. But, we know that their presence here is an act of violence. We know that their speech is an act of violence. They are organizing themselves towards an agenda of genocide and violent attacks on LGBTQ people and Black and Brown people and anyone who dares to fight back against fascism. We march forward to boldly confront white supremacy today in the footsteps of revolutionaries such as Huey Newton, Sylvia Rivera and John Brown and we will continue to march forward until victory.”

Protesters vowed to continue to organize the fight against white supremacy and for a better world. Michael Sampson of the Dream Defenders said, “I came here to stand with my brothers and sisters against racism, fascism and national oppression, but as well to let it be known that people all over the South are rising up to defeat the elite that oppress us daily.” SDSers say they plan to keep the heat on Governor Haslam and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (which runs Montgomery Bell Park) to demand they cease promoting hate groups such as American Renaissance.

Tennessee protest confronts Nazi gathering.

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