The white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, Klansmen and others who gather for White Lives Matters demonstrations had their biggest day since the August violence in Charlottesville when they gathered Saturday, Oct. 28, in middle Tennessee — and, quite simply, they failed.
The estimated 200 who turned out for a midday rally in Shelbyville — roughly a four-hour drive from Stone Mountain, where the Klan was reborn in 1915 — represented the largest white supremacist demonstration since Charlottesville, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
But they faced at least twice as many counterprotesters, who made clever use of loudspeakers broadcasting such classics as Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech to drown out whatever was being said at the rally across the street.
The numbers were even more lopsided in the day’s second rally site, Mufreesboro, where The Tennessean counted no more than 15 white supremacists at any time before organizers canceled the rally. Between 800 and 1,000 counterprotesters were there to greet them, according to city officials, who screened everyone trying to attend either rally in Murfreesboro’s central square.
Such security measures at both sites — screening for weapons and other banned items, establishing separate gathering areas for each side and maintaining the space between them — prevented both the haters and the haters of the haters from sparking the violence and chaos too many extremists seem to thrive on.
Both sides got to express their views, no matter how unpleasant, and both sides had the chance to hear the opposing viewpoint, no matter how loud and angry. But no one was hurt at the rallies, and the only arrest was a young counterprotester in Shelbyville who was a little too determined to take his message into the midst of the other side.
As near as we can tell, the police and municipal officials in both Tennessee cities were the stars of the day, demonstrating how to handle the nuisance of a rally for hate without an escalation from words to violence and without abridging people’s rights to assemble and speak.
The people of middle Tennessee also deserve praise for making it clear that the hatemongers were not wanted without descending to their level.
As a result, the White Lives Matter demonstrators were exposed as people with little to say. They don’t rally to attempt meaningful dialogue or persuasive arguments. They’re looking for a fight — either a physical one, as happened in Charlottesville, or a legal one, giving them the chance to play the victims and claim oppression if their First Amendment rights are in any way abridged. Force them to use their words and their mental reservoirs soon run dry, leaving them nothing to do but go home.
We’re sure more of these rallies will be staged, perhaps here in Georgia, but Shelbyville and Murfreesboro show that we have nothing to be afraid of. Let the prophets of hate step into the light and expose themselves, and the rest of us can enjoy the show from a safe distance when they slither away.