Featured image
Campaign sign vandalism like this in Columbia isn’t unusual, but KKK calling cards left at a broken Biden-Harris sign in Shelbyville attracted attention.

By Clint Confehr

SHELBYVILLE, TN — Biden-Harris campaign signs were damaged here recently and Ku Klux Klan calling cards were left on at least one front lawn where a sign was broken. In response, there’s a “love and fellowship” party on the Public Square starting at noon Saturday.

The Oct. 17 event is being presented by Shelbyville Loves, a local community group formed to oppose hate in the wake of violence in Charlotte, N.C. and at the October 2017 white supremacists’ parade in Shelbyville. “Boo to Hate” was what “Loves” said three years ago.

This year it’s “Y’all Means All” and “Hate has no home here.”

From noon-3 p.m., Shelbyville Loves’ program includes “speakers in response to KKK intimidation,” event planners announced. They’re also “calling on members of the Shelbyville City Council and Bedford County elected officials to officially condemn the KKK and all KKK activities in town.”

The klan calling cards include a drawing of a hooded, robed, horseback rider holding a burning cross above the steed’s head.

Event organizers want everybody at the event to follow CDC COVID-19 guidelines such as wearing a mask and social distancing by 6 feet to minimize health risks.

Meanwhile, a Trucks for Trump parade starts at 5 p.m. Saturday. Line-up for the parade starts at 3 p.m. on a section of Lane Parkway that’s used for most holiday parades.

Shelbyville issued a permit for the parade, Deputy Police Chief Brian Cruze said while discussing the fellowship on the square. The parade starting point is several blocks from the square. The route leads to an agriculture center 2.5 miles north of the square. Police will have overlapping shifts for traffic control.

A chief organizer of Shelbyville Loves invited the Bedford County Republican Party to have a “booth” on the square during “Y’all Means All” and, subsequently, she found social media posts inviting people to a Shelbyville loves Trump gathering around the courthouse.

“A group called ‘Bedford Pro-Trump’ announced they would hold an event at the same time [noon-3 p.m.] and same location which organizers can only assume is a counter protest or ‘troll’ event,” Shelbyville Loves said in a prepared statement. “Shelbyville Loves hopes the Trump supporters will join them in denouncing hate and violence.”

The deputy police chief said, “The Shelbyville Loves group has shown … they’re a very peaceful group.”

Theft and vandalism of political campaign signs isn’t new, but KKK cards have frightened some residents. Others got replacements at the Bedford County Democratic Party office.

At least one property owner doesn’t want to be named in news reports, County Democratic Party Chair Kay Janosik said. “Hate groups are unpredictable, so I can understand that.” Cruze said some number of people don’t bother to tell police about broken signs or finding messages from the klan. That could easily be because people are too busy to focus on anything but work, family and other aspect of life. Some have told police they could skip the task of writing an incident report, he said.

It’s up to residents to determine how they react to the calling cards or klan recruitment fliers that have been left at some homes here in recent years, he said. In a separate interview, Laura Reed, who’s rooted in Shelbyville said, “Fifty to 70-year-old people say the klan was disbanded.” Reed said it’s alive. Either way, it’s probably not as popular as high school football or basketball.

Remarks during a dozen news calls indicate that over the years, a good number of area residents put recruitment fliers in their trash.

Early this month, Breana Green called her friends in Shelbyville Loves, asking about the cards. Now, she’s organizing the event to oppose hate. She initially thought Trucks for Trump was to be Friday, Oct. 16. “They reportedly … rescheduled,” she said.

It would appear that the Biden-Harris sign sprinkled with klan cards was run-over by a truck, she said. Tire tracks were found across a sidewalk, over the sign, its metal fence posts, and back onto Belmont Avenue nearly two blocks east of the Square.

Police know about the recruitment fliers. They state: “American Christian Dixie Knights Wants You.” They’re in sandwich bags with crushed rock inside. Cruze said they “have been showing up in Shelbyville for quite some time.” Cards are different, he said.

The cards state: “You have been paid a social visit by the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Don’t make the next visit a business call.”

Police encourage people who feel intimidated or threatened to tell law enforcement.

An FBI spokesman in Knoxville declined to say the statements are intimidating, threatening, or have a chilling effect on the right to freedom of speech. FBI Officer Darrell DeBusk said he consulted local law enforcement, and told The Tennessee Tribune, “This appears to fall under 1st Amendment rights” because of the cards and sign.

The FBI focuses on people who commit violence and criminal activity that constitutes a federal crime or poses a threat to national security.

“There’s some fear,” Janosik said. “People are upset. Some are hesitant to put out signs.” Fewer than 100 may attend Saturday. “I could be wrong, this being so close to the election.” As for white supremacists living here, she said, “They need to know there are a lot more people who are against them than who are for them.”

Janosik said the Bedford County Listening Project has held several events “to help renters with their rights to keep them from getting evicted.”

Kelly Jenkins of the Listening Project called the cards “a form of voter intimidation.” Dozens of area residents attended a vigil because of the Feb. 23 shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, the jogger near Brunswick, Ga.

Shelbyville City Council candidate Stephanie Isaacs recalls a rally for George Floyd here. Saturday is a “party against white supremacy,” Isaacs said.

State Senate candidate Chase Clemmons is to speak Saturday. He’s had campaign signs vandalized. That’s “really not” unusual Clemmons said. “The big difference that I see is that there are not as many Trump signs as there were in 2016.”

Clint Confehr — an American journalist since 1972 — first wrote for The Tennessee Tribune in 1999. His news writing and photography in South Central Tennessee and the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical...