The hashtag, #WhiteLivesMatter, is trending on Twitter Saturday, and a debate is raging over issues of racism, entitlement, reverse discrimination, and more. The heated virtual war of words is occurring in concert with a pair of scheduled White Lives Matter rallies in Tennessee. White nationalist and neo-Nazi groups are pitted against counter-protesters over refugee resettlement, according to a report by The Hill.
The communities of Murfreesboro and Shelbyville are hotbeds for clashes that are feared to flare up in the wake of the deadly protests in Charlottesville over the summer. The violence left one woman dead and scores injured.
Tennessee officials announced security plans ahead of the White Lives Matter demonstrations and warned local proprietors and the public to brace for potential disruptions in business and snarls in traffic. Business leaders responded by boarding up windows while counter-protesters held candlelight vigils the night before the rallies, according to USA Today’s reporting.
Leaders of the White Lives Matter rallies communicated their disagreement with the government’s openness to resettling Middle Eastern immigrants in their communities. Organizers specifically pointed to the propagation of African refugees from Sudan and Somalia.
The white nationalist group, the League of the South, arrived at a rally site and carried signs that read, “southern cultural genocide.” Members also displayed a large Confederate flag.
Sources spoke to opposing members at Saturday’s rallies. The dichotomy is not all that surprising, considering both sides — white nationalists and counter-protesters — have been vocal in the past about its ideologies.
On the one hand, white supremacists advocate the emergence and conservation of a homogenous society. On the other hand, anti-hate groups support a heterogeneous society where all races, creeds, and ethnic groups coexist and equality is at the forefront of society’s ideals.
Chad Bagwell, 30, is a resident of Centre, Ala. and a supporter of the White Lives Matter movement who drove two hours to take part in one of Saturday’s rallies. He forgot to bring a Confederate flag to the rally. Instead, he proudly wore a “Make America Great Again” hat and clutched an American flag. While some among his group push back against any form of refugee settlement, Chad demonstrates a level of tolerance.
“I don’t have nothing against refugees, but I do think they need stricter vetting for it,” he told reporters.
Vegas Longlois, 23, is among a group of counter-protesters. As a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, she joins others in support of refugee resettlements in the United States.
“We can’t let the hate go unchecked in the nation,” she said. Vegas added that the goal of her group is to promote a paradigm shift towards tolerance and set the record straight that the “many sides” argument touted by President Trump is distorted.
“There is one side here promoting hate and there is one side here saying, ‘Not in our town.'”
Twitter users from both sides of the argument chimed in on the rallies in Tennessee.
Ahead of the White Lives Matter rallies, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said in no uncertain terms that white supremacist agendas would not be tolerated in his state. He pledged to use the “full force” of law enforcement to protect peaceful demonstrators and prosecute those pushing hate-fueled rhetoric.
“We want to send a really clear message that these folks are not welcome in Tennessee. If you’re part of the white supremacist movement you’re not somebody that we want in Tennessee.”
As the #WhiteLivesMatter debate continues to trend online, stay tuned for developments in the weekend Tennessee rallies.
[Featured Image by Scott Olson/Getty Images]