The cell phone video taken from inside of a restaurant in Brentwood, Tennessee, shows a woman scuffling with neo-Nazi protesters on the streets. She appears to fall back against a window for a moment. In a flash—with fists flying all around her—the viewer can clearly see blood trickling down her face.
Metro Nashville Police said Sunday they were actively investigating the brawl. The incident followed a dual-pronged alt-right “White Lives Matter” protest held on Saturday—in which two middle Tennessee cities were targeted with protests against refugee resettlements in the area. It served as a familiar sight to anyone who has followed the movement over the last few months: As in Charlottesville, Virginia in August, when white protester James Fields rammed a car into a group of anti-racist demonstrators, allegedly murdering activist Heather Heyer, and in Gainesville, Florida this month, when three men were charged with attempted murder after one of them fired a handgun at a crowd, the specter of violence seemed—at least on social media—to overshadow any message that the white protesters had hoped to convey in their visit.
— Alex ____ (@LeftistScumbag) October 29, 2017
This latest incident erupted over a freedom many Americans take for granted in the 21st century—interracial romance. Metro Nashville Police said in a statement that a 30-year-old white woman and a 37-year-old black man were eating at a table in the restaurant from which the video was filmed, when the white protesters started arguing with them, One of the men was Matthew Heimbach of the Traditionalist Worker’s Party (TWP), who was among the organizers of the “White Lives Matter” rally. The protesters urged the woman to leave her boyfriend, police said. An argument ensued, and traveled outside.
“The argument inside apparently escalated even after the female victim had gone outside to deescalate the situation,” police said in a release. Heimbach can clearly be seen in the video footage. In it, he appears to be trying to deescalate the situation with his hands up in the air as bodies tangle around him.
The white nationalists uploaded and sent me videos they took of the fight. They believe it shows her swinging first. Watch for yourself: pic.twitter.com/5EnbjSEKeH
— Jack Smith IV (@JackSmithIV) October 29, 2017
A white man in his 30s, dressed in the TWP’s all black uniform, allegedly socked the woman, leading to a cut that produced the blood seen in the video. The victim of the punch filed a police report, but refused medical treatment, police said.
Many commentators on the alt-right have condemned the optics of the rallies that took place over the weekend, citing the inability of organizers like Heimbach to curtail violence like the fight that took place in Brentwood on Saturday night. “We have some responsibility in starting this violence because we go to these places knowing that there will [altercations],” Andrew Anglin wrote on his neo-Nazi blog The Daily Stormer—a sophomoric website that frequently glorifies the Holocaust. “Even if there isn’t violence, it creates chaos and disrupts people’s lives in a way they tend to dislike.”
Anglin, who was in hiding to avoid being served a lawsuit from the Southern Poverty Law Center over allegedly instigating the anti-Semitic abuse of a woman in Montana, also addressed concerns about the optics of the Tennessee rallies on Gab, a social media site with a large contingency of far-right users.
“No one thinks that march yesterday looked good, and no one wants to say it,” he wrote on Sunday. “I certainly don’t.”
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