Community Groups Respond to the Presence of Extremist White Supremacist Conference in Tennessee State Park

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For the sixth consecutive year, an annual extremist and white supremacist conference sponsored by American Renaissance (AmRen) will be held in Middle Tennessee’s Montgomery Bell State Park.  A group of community organizers, activists, and advocates are hosting a counter-event: a protest and teach-in challenging white supremacy and promoting equality and diversity. A recognized hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, American Renaissance (“AmRen”) “is a self-styled think tank that promotes pseudo-scientific studies and research that purports to show the inferiority of blacks to whites,” according to the SPLC which tracks the nation’s extremist hate groups. AmRen’s international conference is meant to provide an open space for “intellectuals,” Neo-Nazis and other racists to collaborate and refine their agenda.

The counter-event, “Not in Our State: Oppose the Hate!” billed as “a grassroots effort to confront white supremacy and hate,” will take place from 10:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. on July 29, outside the Montgomery Bell State Park Conference Center (near the playground near the park inn), outside Dickson, Tenn. “Oppose the Hate!” will directly challenge AmRen’s racist ideology by presenting a series of speakers, entertainers and community members to expose these 21st-century racists.

“AmRen is simply white supremacists in business suits,” said conference organizer Sallie Neal from Murfreesboro. “This group is concerning because they advocate an agenda of eugenics and superiority whitewashed with what they call ‘science.’ We want to send a message to the public that Tennessee is more tolerant than this, and that Tennesseans should reject AmRen’s efforts to make Tennessee a hate tourist destination. White supremacist organizing has no place in our modern State.” AmRen previously hosted their annual conferences in elaborate hotel conference centers, but after community outrage pressured hotel managers and local leaders to preemptively cancel their reservations, the racist group has retreated to the seclusion of Montgomery Bell State Park’s conference center.
 

AmRen’s conference in Middle Tennessee comes amid on the heels of a shocking increase in the number of race- and nationality-motivated attacks in the country, spurred on by racists enjoying the bully pulpit of the Trump Administration, which has been reluctant to criticize Klan members and other white supremacists such as David Duke. Trump’s rise to the presidency has drawn what were previously outcasts of the far right into the political mainstream.Richard Spencer, a longtime white supremacist and leader of a white nationalist, anti-black think tank concerned with preserving the “white race” and defeating multiculturalism and ending immigration of non-whites, is rumored to be a headline speaker at this year’s AmRen conference in Tennessee. Spencer’s group and AmRen have repeatedly called for the end of marriages between white Europeans and what they perceive to be “non-whites” who never belonged to American society.

Spencer, who is said to have coined the term “alt-right,” quoted Nazi propaganda, refused to denounce Adolf Hitler, and railed against Jews after the 2016 election. In a Nov. 20, 2016 story, The New York Times reported that Spencer’s followers gave the Nazi “sieg hiel” (“hail victory” in German) salute after a speech by Spencer in which he proclaimed, “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” Stephen Bannon, an alt-right opinion and gossip publisher, is now a chief adviser and strategist to the Trump White House.

“AmRen is worrisome because it attempts to pass off its racist message as serious public-policy work, which it isn’t,” said Will York, Nashville attorney and teach-in speaker. “What’s promising about this protest and teach-in is the opportunity to expose AmRen’s ideas to the light of day. There is wisdom in Justice Brandeis’ statement that sunlight is the best disinfectant. The answer to speech hostile to our values as Tennesseans is speech that embraces inclusiveness and racial equality.” Academics and advocates have signed on to make presentations at the teach-in, covering topics ranging from race and the death penalty to state efforts to criminalize immigrants to transphobia.

The counter-event organizers stressed the “nontraditional” character of the protest and teach-in.  “We don’t want this to be a dry presentation of research on a Saturday afternoon,” Neal said. “We want people to come out and enjoy our tax-payer-funded State Park and take a stand against racism in the process.”

Pro-Equality organizers of this event are also urging individuals and organizations to sign a “statement of solidarity and support” affirming Tennessee as a place of tolerance. “We are disgusted that (AmRen) would use our taxpayer-funded parks to (mis)educate on the superiority of the White race,” a portion of the statement reads. “Oppose the Hate!” is free to attend. The group has obtained a special use permit for an area near the conference center, where speakers, teach-ins, and lunch will be served. This area is noted on the attached map. In addition, protesters from various groups will gather directly in front of the conference center on Friday, July 28 at 4 p.m., and Saturday, July 29, from 10:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. for peaceful and visible anti-racism protest.

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