Filed under: Action, Anti-fascist, Police, Southeast
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One People’s Project reports back on the recent mobilization against the Alt-Right American Renaissance conference in Burns, Tennessee.
Cover photo from Elizabeth King
BURNS, TN – In the past six years that Jared Taylor’s, American Renaissance (AmRen) held its annual conference at Montgomery Bell Park Inn, a remote area in a state park 45 minutes outside Nashville, the public still were able to enjoy the park and the restaurant which is also inside the Inn, while the conference went on in a nearby hall. Park rangers would be there simply to make sure nothing got out of hand, and nothing did. Meanwhile, Taylor enjoyed what little attention he received from mainstream media who would come to the conference to report on the event.
Last weekend however, was different. This was the first AmRen conference held after the so-called “Unite the Right” rally which took place on Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, Virginia, an event where neo-Nazis and White supremacists started a riot that ended in the death of a local counter-protester, 34-year-old Heather Heyer, struck down by a car allegedly driven by James Fields, an attendee of the rally. And it was also one week since the National Socialist Movement rally in Newnan, GA, where police have been criticized for their heavy-handed tactics and escalation of what otherwise was a peaceful protest. This outing saw a complete closing of the Inn to the public and barricades where counter-protesters were only allowed to be in a pen on a hill overlooking the Inn, while conference attendees remained inside, with the exception of a few who were escorted to and from their vehicles by park rangers. Still, on Saturday – the 73rd anniversary of the execution of Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini – approximately 80-100 came out to oppose the event, continuing the escalation of the opposition that started last year.
The last AmRen rally was two weeks prior to the events in Charlottesville, and the rally was promoted by National Policy Institute’s Richard Spencer, who introduced the attendees to rally organizer Jason Kessler, who was also attending the conference. Spencer also engaged in a bit of foreshadowing: “It is going to be hugely dramatic, probably hugely traumatic for the liberal people of Charlottesville.”
Prior to last year’s conference, there had never been any acts of violence or even cause for concern, but that changed when an AmRen Conference attendee attacked a counterprotester who in defending himself threw him into the lake and beat him so soundly he had to be airlifted to a Nashville hospital. This year, no such incidents took place, but protesters loudly voiced their displeasure at the increased security that they saw restricted their rights in the defense of conference attendees. Beth Foster, co-director of the Mercy Junction Justice and Peace Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Idavox contributor, was particularly angry and vocal when park rangers would not let even her purse through the checkpoint because bags were prohibited in the protest zone.
Not every protestor chose to go through the checkpoint. Many stayed at a nearby pavilion because they objected to the so-called “free speech zone” and chose to monitor the event from there. Among those who did participate in the demonstration was former and future presidential candidate Vermin Supreme, who lampooned those inside the Inn, and even being searched at the zone’s checkpoint.
The protesters heckled the conference from the hill, and also took the time to hold a vigil to remember those that were killed in recent months by those that engage in hate politics, including the 10 killedreportedly by a supporter of what are called incels – which stands for “involuntary celibate” – groups of men angry about not having a relationship with women who choose to lash out – often violently – against them, and the four persons killed in a Nashville area Waffle House by a self-described “sovereign citizen”. Such ideologies are often prevalent with those that attended the conference. While the police enforced a no-mask ordinance last weekend, one person were merely told to leave the park as opposed to being arrested.
The conference was restricted to some media, and most of the attendees remained inside the inn for the duration of the outside protest. There were approximately 250 attendees, down somewhat from the sold-out number they had just in July, with tickets still being available last week. Many of the attendees were from the neo-fascist group Identity Evropa, and while Richard Spencer was that there this time, “Unite the Right” organizer Jason Kessler also attended. The day before, the University of Virginia issued a no-trespass order against him, banning him from campus for his role in organizing the torchlit rally of White supremacists on campus Aug. 11, saying he threatened the health and safety of members of the University community.” They were looking for him to serve the order, but he had left to attend the conference. On Monday, while attempting to attend the trial of Jacob Goodwin, a member of Billy Roper’s Shieldwall who was charged with assault stemming from his role in the Aug. 12 attack of DeAndre Harris, Kessler was approached with that order but reportedly attempted to run and hide inside a courthouse bathroom.
On June 15, a similar conference will be held at the Inn, this one a joint conference of the Council of Conservative Citizens, of which Jared Taylor is a former board member, and the American Freedom Party, formerly known as American Third Position. Those who came out to oppose the AmRen conference, not only plan to be out for that one as well, they also will demand better treatment by state and local governments as well as respect for their free speech rights, which they felt were violated in favor of better accommodations to hate groups, a particular concern in recent months in Tennessee.