Filed under: Action, Anti-fascist, Southeast, White Supremacy
Jam City Antifa reports on confrontations with neo-Confederates in Memphis, Tennessee over the course of two days.
This past weekend, Confederate 901 was in Memphis, TN to protest the removal of memorabilia from the Jefferson Davis and Nathan Bedford Forrest (a Confederate general, a slave trader, slaver owner, and the first leader of the KKK) monuments removed by the city of Memphis in July. The event was organized by George “K-Rack” Johnson who has a history of misogynist rhetoric and flashes “White Power” signs associated with the Proud Boys. The event called for a two-day demonstration starting September 21st and 22nd.
On the first day of the demonstration supporters were to meet at Big River Crossing with Confederate battle flags and parade across the Arkansas Tennessee state-line before caravanning to Health Sciences Park. Antifascists who were close-by located the caravan’s parking and spotted the rebel flags crossing Big River Bridge. They mobilized to engage the parade at the end of the bridge where the local news was waiting.
— Brad Broders (@Local24Brad) September 21, 2018
The initial confrontation began with chants of “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA!” disrupting several Confederate 901 interviews being conducted by the news. The police quickly intervened between antifascists and Confederate 901 marchers keeping them apart as they made their way to their cars. After the confrontation at Big River Bridge, the Confederates held a short meeting before heading to Health Sciences Park. Antifascist quickly returned to their cars and infiltrated the Confederate caravan following two cars behind its leader. The caravan quickly turned into dirty looks between Confederate supporters and antifascists as more became aware their caravan being infiltrated. Some supporters split-off due to this disruption, and were left aimlessly riding around without proper direction as to where the next rally point was.
3 counterprotesters are here yelling go home and "Memphis does not support you get lost"
— Katie Fretland (@katiefretland) September 21, 2018
Once the caravan reached Health Sciences Park, Confederate 901 stood on the sidewalk with rebel flags waiting for the rest of their party other to how up. While waiting, two security vehicles pulled around the former statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest and parked. A security guard exited the vehicle and went over to Confederate 901 telling them the park was closed and that they were not allowed on the grass. Antifascists nearby took this opportunity to engage Confederate 901 by standing parallel to the statue’s base causing a line of police to be formed between the statue and Confederate 901 with the antifascist being on the inside. After not being able to get close to the statue, Confederate 901 ended their rally and left Health Sciences park.
George “K-Rack” Johnson later went on Confederate 901’s livestream on Facebook where he encouraged others to show up for the street march the next day and how a “special guests” was going to make an appearance. The “special guests” whom he was referring was H. K. Edgerton. A person of color that attends Confederate events dressed as a Rebel solider while carrying a giant Confederate battle flag. His purpose was to act as a tokenized “shield” for diversity for Confederate 901. The end of the Livestream included details about rally points, allowed items, and calls for militia men to join the event. Meanwhile, antifascists organized a counter-protest in response and invited local Memphis residents to join in.
On the second day of Confederate 901’s event, the group followed the same plan as the day before. This time they gathered in Southhaven Mississippi and were seen by two locals who quickly told that they were not welcome. The group was headed to Memphis Park where the former Jefferson Davis statue was located, and where the antifascist counter demonstration was also organized to greet them. The antifascists waited for about 45 minutes, as Confederate 901 was running late, due to the fact a member had gotten a speeding ticket while rushing to Memphis Park.
Around 1:50 PM the antifascists noticed an increase in police activity and barricades were being set up in front of the park. An alert told the antifascists that the Confederate Caravan was inbound to their location and the antifascists mobilized to where Confederate 901 was entering the park. Around 2:30 PM, Confederate flags were spotted 2 blocks west of Memphis Park and 30 Confederates were seen marching towards the park into where the antifascists were staged.
Upon confrontation, Confederate 901 was bombarded by antifascists, causing the police to intervene between them. Memphis Park had been closed the weekend of Confederate 901’s demonstration, so the group was forced to stay on the sidewalk. The Police told Confederate 901 that the poles on their flags were not allowed, and escorted one Confederate supporter dressed as a Rebel solider, out of the park. One antifascist yelled, “Awe” and chanted, “Bless your heart,” at the supporter carrying the pole was led back to his car.
Insults and chants were exchanged for about 35 minutes before Confederate 901 began mobilizing towards Memphis City Hall. Antifascists tailed the march from behind separated by 5 police officers in front of them. Confederate 901 was escorted to the plaza in front of City Hall that was blocked off by yellow “Crime Scene” tape. Confederate 901 took a picture in front of City Hall and was allowed in the building to rest before mobilizing down Main Street, all while still being heckled by antifascists.
As Confederate 901 marched down Main Street, they were followed by antifascists on the other side of the city’s trolley tracks with two lines of police separating them. Many locals and shoppers came out upon hearing chants of, “KKK Go Home!” and “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA!” from the antifascists. The Confederate march received dirty looks and middle fingers by locals out on the street and sitting in restaurants on Main Street. The antifascists on the other hand received claps, cries of “Thank You!,” and some members of the public even joined the march behind the antifascists, shouting at the neo-Confederates.
After stopping at City Hall where they were let inside to go to the bathroom, Confederate 901 is walking down Main toward Beale St. Counterprotesters calling them Nazi scum. Police in between pic.twitter.com/p7tnH9s3Ot
— Katie Fretland (@katiefretland) September 22, 2018
The march circled back to a parking garage, a block north of Memphis Park. The Confederates had been heckled the entire time during their march and followed by antifascists. Now, they had become completely silent; not returning back chants. It was clear they were not having a good time. While entering the garage, chants of, “Nah, Nah, Naah, Hey, Hey, Hey, Goodbye!,” rang out.
Confederate 901 ended their event in Health Sciences Park where they again were forced to stay outside of the park and this time inside of the “Free Speech Pen” on the sidewalk. George “K Rack” Johnson along with H. K. Edgerton both attempted to give speeches but were interrupted by constant shouts from antifascists both in front of and across the street from the “Free Speech” pen. The event in Health Sciences Park only lasted an hour before they all left the park.
The turnout against the neo-Confederates was decent, but thanks only to local radicals in Memphis and the surrounding region who ignored the liberal standard, “Just Ignore Them,” excuse. We have already seen and know what happens when racists go unchecked, people get hurt. By going out and taking a stand, we were able to provide space for local residents who wanted to express themselves without feeling alone. The statues in the South will continue to fall, and neo-Confederates will continue to try and mobilize in reaction. In this context, is up to us in the South to stand up to the dying ideas of slavery and white supremacy.