To Ready Themselves For White Nationalists, Two Tennessee Towns Prepare As If A Hurricane Is Coming | Nashville Public Radio

To Ready Themselves For White Nationalists, Two Tennessee Towns Prepare As If A Hurricane Is Coming

Oct 27, 2017

Murfreesboro is one of the fastest growing cities in Tennessee, and like many in the South, it has a busy town square where locals often hang out, shop and dine.

But this weekend, it's probably going to look very different.

"They told the business owners to think about it as a category 5 hurricane coming through," says Eric Lamure, who works at a family-owned smoke shop on the courthouse square in Murfreesboro.

Normally, they make most of their money during the weekend, but they'll be closed tomorrow — and warned to board up their windows, which Lamure says feeds into the fear of what both white supremacists and counter protesters might do.

"That's kind of unfair because they're not even from here. I think it's the spoken majority doesn't agree with their opinions."

He says many of his customers wonder about the lasting effect on the city, home to a large public university.

Summer Duke, a senior at Middle Tennessee State University, also wonders. The native of White House, Tenn. believes some quietly support the rally.

"It isn't like we are a highly progressive part of the world," she says. "It kind of brings out bad sides of people. We wouldn't have a problem with white supremacy in our country at all if that wasn't true." 

At MTSU, a popular band competition was cancelled and dorms will be locked down. Administrators promise increased police presence.

Past Tension

Both of these cities have had considerable racial tension in recent years. Resistance to building a mosque in Murfreesboro received national attention in 2010. Opponents marched around the same square where white nationalist groups are scheduled to gather tomorrow, denying in chants that Islam was a legitimate religion.  

In neighboring Shelbyville, clashes with immigrants and refugees became the subject of a PBS documentary. But residents want outsiders to know those events are not representative of the region.

Laura Aguilar joined a small group called Shelbyville Loves that’s been waving signs everyday on a street corner.

"They are not welcome here," she says in Spanish. "We are here supporting immigrants, not just Hispanics but Somalis too and refugees. We are against racism."

Kimberly Bean has been a women's rights activist since the 1960's. And she really wants to know how white nationalists justify their ideology.

"It's not my agenda to chase them out," Bean says. "I would like to have that debate. I want to have that conversation. I'd rather know what makes you think these crazy thoughts."

Officials are speaking out. The mayor of Murfreesboro put out a video. Even the Tennessee Baptist Convention spoke up.

"We don't hold press conferences very often," executive director Randy Davis says of the organization's decision to condemn white supremacists. "In fact, in my seven years in this position, this is the very first.”

Once the rally comes to town, local officials would prefer residents find something — anything — else to do. They've urged curiosity seekers to stay away from protest areas and leave them to demonstrators.