Saturday’s tension spills over into Marshall County
The white supremacist marches in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro on Saturday were already close enough to home, but they spilled over into Marshall County that afternoon.
Protests in Shelbyville were tense but trouble-free, with only one arrest for disorderly conduct being made.
The “White Lives Matter” rallies were organized by the League of the South under the umbrella of the Nationalist Front, a loose collection of neo-Nazi, neo-Confederate, white nationalist, and white supremacist groups.
The alt-right groups had planned on moving to Murfreesboro in the afternoon for another protest but canceled that plan after the morning in Shelbyville, after being met with large groups of counter-protesters with more waiting in Murfreesboro.
At approximately 3:30 p.m., groups of the marchers, instead of going to Rutherford County, started gathering at Henry Horton State Park.
The gathering was not a spur of the moment idea, according to law enforcement sources.
Someone associated with the group had previously reserved a pavilion in the park without revealing their connection with the march.
Roughly 100 of the group apparently held a small rally in the park.
Law enforcement converged on the park, concerned that counter-protesters would head to the park as well.
Within 30 minutes of the reports, the Park Rangers, Chapel Hill Police, Marshall County Sheriff, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Lewisburg Police Department, Marshall County Emergency Management, and other agencies as far away as Giles County had sent 100 officers to the park.
After the quick response, the demonstrators dispersed and left the park after an hour.
Chapel Hill Police Chief Andrew Kon did confirm reports that the group formed a human swastika, the symbol of Nazi Germany, for the benefit of police helicopters flying overhead.
Henley said that some traveled toward Lewisburg, which briefly raised concerns of some potential disturbance in town.
LPD gave the all-clear after confirming that the groups had passed through Lewisburg without stopping.
Last year, Lewisburg Police Chief David Henley requested that the Lewisburg City Council purchase 10 sets of riot gear for his department.
At the time, it seemed like an unusual request, but it proved to be prophetic.
Henley said that his was the only department with all of the necessary equipment, prepared for the event.
He added that additional crowd control training would be scheduled for his department in preparation for any repeat of this weekend.
After violent clashes earlier this year in Charlottesville, Va. that saw a woman killed after a neo-Nazi drove his car into a group of counter-protesters, local law enforcement planned a strong response, aimed at preventing any trouble from starting.
Bedford County issued a mutual aid call from surrounding counties in order to deal with the expected large groups protesting.
Henley said his department sent 15 officers and the department’s Humvee to Shelbyville in response.
Several other local agencies sent resources to aid with the demonstrations.
The Marshall County Emergency Medical Service sent an ambulance unit, and the Lewisburg Fire Department sent several members to act as medical first responders.
The Marshall County Sheriff’s Office sent seven deputies to Shelbyville