Photos by Anthony Bukengolts and Andrew Wigdor / MTSU Sidelines
Story by Andrew Wigdor / News Editor
Hundreds of residents and travelers from across the country gathered in Murfreesboro to protest a “White Lives Matter” rally that, unbeknownst to the passionate mass, would be canceled before it began.
Hunter Wallace, the public relations chief of the League of the South, the white nationalist group that was to attend the Murfreesboro rally at 1:30 p.m., sent out a series of tweets a few minutes after 4 p.m., stating that the Murfreesboro rally was canceled. This announcement followed the rally that the League of the South and other white nationalist groups held in Shelbyville, Tennessee. Participators of the Shelbyville rally began to arrive around 11:30 a.m. and, according to the original event plan, were to travel to Murfreesboro after the first rally. The first tweet from Wallace, which was published after the participants of the Shelbyville rally reportedly went to lunch, simply read, “Murfreesboro Cancelled.”
Upon the publishing of the tweet, fits of laughter and triumphant shouts erupted from the crowd of the estimated 800 to 1,000 counter-protestors, who had been waiting for hours for the League of the South to show. According to a joint press release from the City of Murfreesboro and Rutherford County, no injuries or damages were reported during the event.
Despite the cancellation, the crowds of protestors and Murfreesboro residents were happy to see the show of unity that came out of the rallies.
“We are here in numbers,” said Tony Fournier, a Tennessee State University junior and history major. “If they are afraid, that’s almost a good thing. I’m just happy that Murfreesboro stood up against them. That’s what happened. They are trying to take away the narrative, but Murfreesboro stood up to them. That’s really what happened.”
One of the subsequent tweets that Wallace published stated that “Murfreesboro was not worth the risk.”
Murfreesboro residents such as Dean West, an MTSU junior majoring in political science, came to protest the rally due to the way that the impending gathering had affected the city.
“I came out today because I was driving through the Square yesterday, and I saw all the businesses and doors boarded up,” West said. “It hit me in an emotional way. These people did this to our town. They shut this town down, just because they want to spread hate and violence and bigotry.”
Claudia Hanes, 67, a Bowling Green, Kentucky resident who had donned a rainbow flag with the word “Peace” written on it, said that the crowd’s size in Murfreesboro was important in rebuking the ideology of the hate groups.
“It’s my opinion that you have to stand up and say that you don’t agree with what their message is,” Hanes said. “The only way to prevent the spread of hatred is to stand up against it. I’m here today because a very hateful group decided to show up in Tennessee.”
In the hours before the rally’s cancellation, Erin-Ligh Hennessy, an MTSU junior and leisure sports and tourism major, was walking through the City Square and hanging signs that presented information about famous African American inventors.
“I gathered some facts,” Hennessy said. “(The white nationalists) can’t shout over these. Anything that you are going to yell in their faces, they are going to yell right back. Whatever they do, they do to bug you. Their whole purpose is in our reaction. It’s based on how we react … How do you eradicate ignorance? It’s with education. I don’t want to be ignored. They have no choice but to look at these and absorb the information.”
Daryl Webb, an African-American man whose family has lived in Murfreesboro since the emancipation of American slaves, was in the City Square to share the story of his ancestors.
“My great-great-grandfather, Daniel Gannaway, he and his son opened up a business at the corner of Maple Street and Vine Street in the Murfreesboro Square in 1872,” Webb said. “In 1876, it was a white supremacy mindset that sought to get rid of him off of the Square. They trapped him in charges of larceny … I find it ironic that, 140 plus years later, the same white supremacist mindset is back on the Square again.”
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