The rallies, which were attended by 300 white nationalists and neo-Nazis on Saturday, were organized by the Nationalist Front coalition, the same groups that led the Charlottesville march.
The demonstrators held up Confederate flags, along with ones that read “White pride worldwide,” and gathered in the town of Shelbyville. They then travelled north to Murfreesboro for a second rally, which was cut short amid counter-protests.
According to the City of Murfreesboro, about 800 to 1,000 counter-protesters took to the streets.
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Both towns are near Nashville, the centre of a metropolitan area that has become home to refugees from Somalia, Iraq and elsewhere.
“We don’t want the federal government to keep dumping all these refugees into middle Tennessee,” Brad Griffin, a member of a group known as the League of the South, told Reuters.
After the protest, Nashville police reported that a white woman was hit by a member of the white supremacist movement for sitting with a black man at a pub.
The incident occurred Saturday when the group invited the woman to come sit with them instead, but she declined.
Recent white nationalist events
There have been several white nationalist rallies in the U.S. in the past months. Earlier in October, demonstrators returned to Charlottesville, nearly two months after the violent clashes that led to the death of a 32-year-old woman.
A few dozen white nationalists, led by alt-right activist Richard Spencer, gathered at Emancipation Park near a covered statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
“We said we would be back. We’re back,” Spencer said in a social media video.
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White supremacist gatherings are increasingly common in the U.S., University of Toronto sociology professor Ellen Berrey told Global News.
“They are on the rise, in the sense that white supremacists have been emboldened by the current political movement, by the racial politics of U.S. President Donald Trump,” Berrey said.
Pros and cons of counter-protests
While it’s “enormously important” that the American public show that these views are held by a minority, Berrey says counter-protests shouldn’t be the only source of deterring white supremacist rallies.
“Counter-protests are reactionary, and they tend not to be preventative on the larger scale,” Berrey explains.
“What the U.S. really needs is communication and leadership, all the way from the very local level to President Trump, denouncing these displays of hate and bigotry, and especially the incitement to violence,” the professor said.
Berrey added those involved in the counter-protests are the same people who are being victimized by the white supremacist movement.
“So we’re asking some of the most vulnerable people in society to do the work of protecting all of us from really dangerous far-right racist politics.”
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Majority believe white people face discrimination
A survey released by NPR, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in October found that the majority of white Americans believe they face racial discrimination in their country.
Of the 902 white Americans surveyed, 55 per cent said discrimination against their race exists. Only 19 per cent of them said they had faced racism.
Berrey notes that while it’s “conceivable” that some white Americans have faced discrimination, countless studies prove that they are not affected by systemic racism — the kind that truly affects how people are treated in schools, the job market and justice system.
“Discrimination has far more serious consequences — and far more widespread — when it targets people of colour,” she said.
“There is sufficient and long-term rigorous evidence showing that discrimination hurts the life chances of people of colour, and degrades their lives. And that evidence does not exist for white people.”
— With files from Reuters, The Associated Press