Photo courtesy of Murfreesboro Loves
“Murfreesboro Loves” is a progressive coalition of organizations promoting community engagement activities in response to the announcement of the “White Lives Matter” rally in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro on Saturday.
Members from extremist groups, including the Traditionalist Worker Party, National Socialist Movement, League of the South and Vanguard America, are expected to rally at the Murfreesboro City Square.
According to the organization’s Facebook page, all Murfreesboro Loves scheduled events will be away from the rally being held in downtown Murfreesboro and non-confrontational.
Organizations involved with Murfreesboro Loves range from religious institutions and advocacy groups to local businesses and citizens.
One of the organizations involved with Murfreesboro Loves is Statewide Organizing for Community Empowerment. They held a screening of the movie “Welcome to Shelbyville” Wednesday night at the Patterson Park Community Center in Murfreesboro.
The movie addressed the history of Shelbyville along with its growing racial tensions during an influx of Somalian refugees in the city in 2008.
Bill Wilson, an MTSU alumnus, found out about Murfreesboro Loves from his girlfriend and attended SOCM’s movie screening.
“I’m opposed to any type of discrimination against anybody,” Wilson said. “What makes this town so great is the diversity.”
Wilson expressed his hope for a peaceful demonstration. He said he was unhappy with Murfreesboro being a stage for unrest.
“In today’s society, it seems like everybody’s got an agenda, and a lot of it has to do with hate,” Wilson said. “I just think that, as a society, it would be great if we could agree to disagree, agreeably. I don’t (approve of) any of the hate or physical violence. That’s just uncalled for. I wish those people would go to some other town and learn to get along with others.”
Wilson graduated from MTSU in 1992 and has a long family history in Murfreesboro. He mentioned some of his family’s involvement in the Civil War.
“I’ve got a great-great-great grandfather who fought for the South,” Wilson said. “I’ve got a great-great-great grandfather who fought for the North, and they fought against each other at Shiloh and Chickamauga. So I come from both sides, but the right side won. People have to remember that.”
Wilson said that Murfreesboro’s diversity attracts him to the city. He enjoys the wide range of religious institutions, the music from Nashville and the amount of available jobs.
“It’s just a great place to grow up, call home (and) to raise a family,” Wilson said.
MTSU junior Joshua Hendricks, who is majoring in communication studies, founded the MTSU Student Coalition Against Hate with two other students in his Democratic Engagement and Civic Advocacy class.
“As we were together, we kind of got coordinated with the community at large,” Hendricks said. “One of my co-founders and I were at the foundational and organizational first meeting for Murfreesboro Loves. We’ve been trying to help students who want to get involved (and) who want to come do something safe. (It’s) not something down at the square. (It’s) away, peaceful and family friendly.”
Hendricks said that safety is of big concern to Murfreesboro Loves. He said that they plan on utilizing Neon Guard Nashville, a group that teaches nonviolent de-escalation tactics, to ensure a peaceful and successful event.
Hendricks talked about his surprise with the initial success of Murfreesboro Loves.
“It came very quickly,” Hendricks said. “When we were at the meeting, we knew something had to be done. It was kind of very ad hoc-ish. We were just throwing together what we were going to do. We figured that, obviously awareness, having the word out there, having the name out there, was important.”
As of now, the Murfreesboro Loves Facebook page has over 3,200 likes and over 3,300 followers. The Murfreesboro Loves profile frame has been used nearly 5,000 times.
Hendricks also stressed the importance of keeping the event safe and nonviolent.
“We are going to be committed to nonviolence and peace,” Hendricks said. “It’s got to be in line with the True Blue pledge that we are nonviolent and dedicated to reason. That’s not only just a pledge, but that’s part of the identity of what it means to attend MTSU and be a Blue Raider.”
Mike Cannon and Scott Martindale helped organize and host SOCM’s movie screening on Wednesday.
Martindale has lived in Murfreesboro for 20 years and currently helps SOCM as a volunteer.
Martindale expressed his frustration with the White Lives Matter rally.
“Personally, it kind of pisses me off,” Martindale said. “It just seems that we get blamed for all this. I mean, that’s why they’re all coming. They think the town is behind them, and it’s not. Our mayor has come out and explicitly condemned their ideology and the white supremacist ideology. So, they’re here just to kind of stir up stuff and to try to use it as a recruiting trip.”
“We need to prove them wrong,” Cannon said. “People don’t stand behind this. Which is why we’re having these counter-events.”
Cannon also addressed criticisms about counter-protesting possibly drawing more attention to the matter than it deserves.
“Some people will say, ‘No, just ignore them. That’s the best thing to do,'” Cannon said. “I don’t think (that) is correct. There’s going to be national and international media here that day. If they were to see, just in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro, white supremacist groups protesting and there’s no organized counter thing, then the message tells the world that we’re okay with this.”
In the long run, Cannon has high hopes for Murfreesboro Loves having a longstanding place in the community, even after the rallies end on Saturday.
“We’re hoping that we can build a broad coalition that will continue doing anti-racist organizing and immigrant rights organizing,” Cannon said. “It really looks like Murfreesboro Loves has enough momentum behind it that it can become a permanent organization.”
To contact News Editor Andrew Wigdor, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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