“They cancelled. They ain’t coming.”
This was the first thing I heard upon arriving at Murfreesboro Square, where hundreds of activists showed up to rally against a planned white supremacist demonstration. The man on his phone laughed and called them “cowards,” with most of us expressing the same sentiment.
I went to Middle Tennessee State University, and the Square is certainly somewhere I am familiar with. It is where I bought my record player, and my first bass guitar. Yet it could not have looked any more alien to me than it did with snipers and heavily armed police guarding every corner. Police tape blocked off much of the area, making it difficult to approach the Square itself. I passed several people going every direction saying they had no clue how to get to the main event. Having dropped off my comrades and parked, I made my way to them just in time to hear the news: the Nazis weren’t coming.
I recognized several activist groups in the area. The Tennessee Peace and Justice Center, Middle Tennessee Democratic Socialists of America, Nashville Food Not Bombs, and more. Of the MTSU faculty, I recognized Michael Principe, a teacher of Philosophy, including a class on Marxism, and the sponsor for MT Solidarity. Others had traveled hundreds of miles to be here. Including myself, there were five members of Party for Socialism and Liberation from the Nashville area.
When asked why he came, Julian Jennison said “We are students here at MTSU, so we are defending our home turf… I’m honestly really proud of the community coming together here.” Although there were activists of all ages in the Square, most were certainly college aged.
“This is my first of any kind of demonstration,” Jaden Tabb said, repeating what many other students there were saying. “Just after Trump got elected,” he added, “you would see some walk around with ‘Make America Great Again’ hats, but we’ve never had to deal with anything like this.”
Not all in the Square were college students though. 47-year-old activist Holly Greene from Water Is Life Nashville has done work helping the people of Flint, Michigan with their horrific water situation. She acknowledged the connection between the various issues going on today in the United States. “I’m here to stand with the people.”
While the fascists canceled their appearance in Murfreesboro, there was a confrontation earlier that morning in Shelbyville, 20 minutes away. Around 200 white supremacists showed up in an attempt to terrorize that working class community. The fascists were outnumbered five to one by anti-racist counterprotesters.
The chaos at the Murfreesboro Square was seen in Shelbyville as well. Many were guided by police to the wrong side. Counterprotesters were not allowed to bring water, flagpoles, bandanas or any kind of bag, while the fascists were armed with shields, helmets and bats.
But the counterprotesters held their ground. That the white supremacists were too frightened to go through with the Murfreesboro action shows the effect that can be had when a community stands its ground in the face of fascist oppression.
On the road to Murfreesboro from Shelbyville, hundreds of anti-racist protesters lined the sidewalk with banners showing that no matter where you look, people will fight back against oppression. The people of Middle Tennessee and their allies did just that on Oct. 28.