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White Lives Matter Murfreesboro and Shelbyville rallies: Live updates

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Hundreds are expected at a White Lives Matter rally in Murfreesboro and another one in Shelbyville Saturday.

Authorities will try to keep counterprotesters to designated areas in both towns. Other community groups have planned off-site demonstrations and protests throughout the day.

The USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee has journalists on the ground at both rallies and will be continuously providing updates. Check back and keep refreshing this page for the latest. 

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Natalie Allison/USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee

Follow live updates:

12:35 p.m. Shelbyville: Police have detained one person at the White Lives Matter rally in Shelbyville. Officers went into the white nationalist side of the street and pulled a young white man out of the crowd. They put him into a police vehicle.

12:28 p.m. Shelbyville: The permit for the rally in Shelbyville ends at 1 p.m., and some people have started to leave. The crowd of counterprotesters who came to oppose the white nationalists has dwindled a bit, from more than 400 to about 350.

12:20 p.m. Murfreesboro: Counterprotesters who have gathered in anticipation of a white nationalist rally this afternoon in Murfreesboro are marching through city streets.

They carried signs and chanted “refugees are welcome here” and “this is what democracy looks like.”

More: White Lives Matter Murfreesboro rally: What we know now

12:14 p.m. Shelbyville: White nationalists and counterprotesters have tried to drown each other out with dueling chants.

Counterprotesters have chanted “black lives matter,” sang the hymn “I’ll Fly Away” and have called out the name of Heather Heyer, a woman who was killed by a suspected white nationalist at a Charlottesville rally.

White nationalists chanted “blood and soil.” Michael Hill, president of the League of the South said “Hail Dixie” and “Hail victory!” over the loudspeakers.

By 12:14, about 200 white nationalists and about 400 counterprotesters were on site.

11:52 a.m. Shelbyville: The White Lives Matter rally is well underway, with white nationalists addressing the crowd over a loud speaker.

As Brian Culpepper of the National Socialist Movement took the microphone to speak, counterprotesters played Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech over their own speaker system, largely overpowering the sound of Culpepper.

Law enforcement has funneled the white nationalists and counterprotesters onto sidewalks on opposite sides of a four-lane road.

Barriers on each side are keeping people off of the street. Law enforcement is watching from the median of the street, with other officers standing by in a nearby intersection.

The permit for the White Lives Matter rally in Shelbyville ends at 1 p.m.

11:30 a.m. Murfreesboro: More than 400 counterprotesters at Barfield Crescent Park  have gathered against the White Lives Matter rally. They plan to split up into three groups as the rally draws closer.

One group will drive to Old Fort Park where they will display signs. A second group will march to Church Street where a caravan of white nationalists plans to pass on the way to downtown Murfreesboro. The third group will stay at Barfield.

Organizers said they plan a peaceful rally and have asked those gathered not to use profane language. The organizers are also advising those within the group to steer clear of the downtown square. 

11:30 a.m. Shelbyville: Sherry Walker, 57 of Murfreesboro is walking through the crowd of counterprotesters with burning sage.

“It’s for cleansing and healing and peace,” she said. “The smoke is lifting our prayers to heaven.“

11:20 a.m. Shelbyville: At least 160 white nationalists have come to the Shelbyville rally. More than 300 counterprotesters are there. 

11 a.m. Shelbyville: Thor Henderson, a grand officer in Georgia for the International Keystone Knights, a Ku Klux Klan group, said he was marching to bring awareness to the September shooting at an Antioch church.

Some  people there had “tradworker” written on their shields — alluding to the Traditionalist Worker Party, another white supremacy group. On their website, that group also listed the shooting as a reason to participate in the rally.

One woman was killed and seven others were injured in the church shooting; the suspect, Emanuel Kidega Samson, is a legal U.S. resident from Sudan.

“We’ve been here marching for the white peoples’ rights,” said Henderson. “Making a stand and bringing awareness to what’s going on. Like the shooting a black man walking into a white church shot up several people you don’t hear hardly nothing about that on the news. One  white man walks into a black church and it’s national news forever. We just bring awareness to the stuff that’s going on and maybe we can wake up the general public and just open their eyes.”

Henderson said he did not anticipate violence.

“If there are we will not be the aggressors on this. We’ll just be the defenders.”

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People come out to counterprotest the White Lives Matter rally

10:45 a.m. Murfreesboro: Law enforcement is preparing for the second white supremacist rally set to take place later today in Murfreesboro.

The Murfreesboro rally is set to begin at 1:30 p.m., although that could change. Police said they will try to keep protesters and counterprotesters separate.

Officers are stationed on roofs around the downtown square and canine officers are barking in cars along the square.

10:40 a.m. Shelbyville: Some police officers have stationed on the roof of a strip mall with binoculars and long guns.

Kat Chambers of Jackson, Miss., drove six hours to participate in the counter-protest. She said she was there representing her own group: Cat Ladies Against Racist Morons. 

Her homemade sign had a spray bottle with the words “no no no!”

“I don’t want Nazis on the street of my country, not my state, not your state.”

10:30 a.m. Shelbyville: White nationalists are marching to the protest site chanting, “Closed borders, white nation, now we start the deportation.”

Many in the group are carrying large white shields emblazoned with black Xs.

Before they marched toward the security checkpoint an organizer asked the group to put their weapons back in their cars.

10:15 a.m. Shelbyville: White supremacists have arrived and are milling around in a parking lot about a block away.

Video from the scene showed a crowd of mostly men, some of them carrying shields or covering their faces with masks or bandannas.

10:05 a.m. Shelbyville: The first members of the League of the South, a white nationalist group that helped organize the White Lives Matter rally, have arrived and are making their way through security.

10 a.m. Shelbyville: Chad Bagwell, 30, of Centre, Ala. was among the first to arrive on the white nationalists’ side. When he got there at 9:30, the convoy of other protesters hadn’t arrived and police weren’t letting him in to the protest area.

Bagwell held an American flag and was wearing a red Make America Great Again hat. He said he planned to bring a Confederate flag, as well, but forgot it.

He said he learned about the rally through a friend on a social networking website. His friend thought he might enjoy attending the White Lives Matter rally, Centre said, which he understood to be about refugee resettlement.

He drove two hours to attend Saturday’s protest.

“I don’t have nothing against refugees, but I do think they need stricter vetting for it,” Bagwell said.

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9:45 a.m. Shelbyville: About 60 people are in line on the counter-protesters side waiting to be frisked and checked with wands for weapons. Many are carrying signs denouncing Nazis and wearing red bandannas around their necks and arms.

Vegas Longlois came from Birmingham with other members of the Democratic Socialists of America. 

“We cant let hate go unchecked in the nation,” said the 23-year-old. She said refugee populations need to know they are supported.

“The goal for today is to really push back on the narrative that both sides are in the wrong here,” Longlois said. “There is one side here promoting hate and there is one side here saying, ‘Not in our town.”

Tommy Robinson, 45, of Shelbyville will be standing with the counter protesters but said he is neutral.

“I’m just out here to watch and see what will happen. I believe in free speech,” Robinson said. “Let them say what they want and get out of here.

“This is a peaceful community.”

9:20 a.m. Shelbyville: About 40 minutes before protest was set to begin, more than 50 counter-protesters were waiting to get through a security checkpoint.

 A woman is dressed like the statute of liberty. One young man has an “Antifa” flag, the sign for  a movement of anti-Fascist, far-left protest groups, draped around him.

There were no signs of white nationalists yet.

9:20 a.m. Murfreesboro: The square is largely empty. Police cars, including Murfreesboro Police, TBI and state troopers, were stationed at every access point to the square. 

SWAT teams were also moving through the area and at least three armored trucks were on hand. 

Businesses had boarded up windows even blocks from the square. Access to alleys heading into the area was blocked. 

9 a.m. Shelbyville: Law enforcement from cities and counties around the state is in place ahead of the protest and counter protest. Officers from Lincoln, Coffee and Bedford counties are on sight, as are officers from Shelbyville, Columbia, Manchester, Fayetteville, Lewisburg and Nashville.

The National Guard, the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation are on hand to monitor the situation in a support role.

Officers are carrying long batons and wearing helmets with face shields. Some have semi-automatic weapons. Patrol vehicles lined spaces in the parking lot of a shuttered shopping center on Lane Parkway, next to the intersection where white nationalists and counter-protesters will oppose each other behind barricades.

Conditions are cold and cloudy, but the rain has stopped.

3 a.m. Murfreesboro: Police close off the area around Public Square. Check here for the full list of closures. 

  • White nationalists start marching in Shelbyville chanting 'closed borders'

    White nationalists start marching in Shelbyville chanting ‘closed borders’

  • Counterprotesters speak on the White Lives Matter rally in Shelbyville

    Counterprotesters speak on the White Lives Matter rally in Shelbyville

  • White Lives Matter rally kicks off in Tennessee

    White Lives Matter rally kicks off in Tennessee

  • Counterprotesters gather in Barfield Crescent Park to protest White Lives Matter

    Counterprotesters gather in Barfield Crescent Park to protest White Lives Matter

  • Caravan of cars with confederate flags stickers heading to White Lives Matter rally

    Caravan of cars with confederate flags stickers heading to White Lives Matter rally

Natalie Allison, Mariah Timms, Nancy De Gennaro, Stephanie Ingersoll, Scott Broden, Joel Ebert, Dave Boucher, Eric Bacharach, Ayrika Whitney and Jason Gonzlaes contributed to this report. 

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