American Renaissance, an online magazine described as a “white supremacist” publication by outlets such as The Washington Post and the Southern Poverty Law Center, held a conference at Montgomery Bell State Park Inn and Conference Center in Tennessee from July 28 to July 30. On the second day of the conference, a group of approximately 150 people gathered to protest the conference with an event titled “Oppose the Hate.”
Oppose the Hate was hosted and organized by notable activist groups including the Tennessee Anti-Racist Network and the Tennessee Activist Coalition and supported by groups such as the Dickson County NAACP and the Nashville Peace and Justice Center.
According to a press release sent the TARN, the protest was organized to “make sure American Renaissance's racist ideals are countered by speech that is pro-equality and pro-diversity.”
“There’s been protests there, throughout the years,” TARN Representative Kirk Braaten, who assisted in the organization and promotion of the protest, said. “There’s been nothing at this level. The reason it was so big this time is because a lot of different groups got involved to make this happen at this level.”
Braaten said that protesters brought signs and chants to oppose American Renaissance and their ideologies on Saturday.
According to Braaten, another reason that the protest was held on a larger scale was due to the rise of alt-right and white supremacist groups in recent years.
According to an annual report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which actively monitors hate crimes throughout the country, the number of extremist and hate groups rose in 2016 to 917, which is an increase from the 892 groups that were identified in 2015.
The report also shows that, in Tennessee, there were 38 identified and active hate groups, including a Murfreesboro chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.
“The rise in normalization of their ideals has certainly led to a resistance of those ideals,” Braaten said. “American Renaissance has never seen anything on this level.”
Braaten stated that people of all races, genders and ages arrived on Saturday to support the protest.
“(American Renaissance) tries to proclaim that they have some superior knowledge and that they take an intellectual approach to racism and bigotry. The reality is, essentially, they are the KKK in suits and ties. Regardless of how they paint themselves as a scientific, intellectual group, it still comes down to that they are racists and bigots.”
American Renaissance attempts to take a scientific and intellectual approach to spreading their message by sharing news articles and research studies that reinforce their often inflammatory statements.
“As far as research on the reality of race and the scientific study of racial differences, we do not undertake those studies, but we believe it is important to take those studies very seriously,” American Renaissance Editor Jared Taylor said.
Taylor, who spoke at the conference, stated that the protestors wished to stop them from meeting due to the fact that they were discussing topics that the groups involved in the protest did not agree with.
“We are race-realists and white advocates, and we believe that whites have legitimate interests that must be pursued,” Taylor said.
On the American Renaissance website, race-realism is described as the idea that different races build societies that reflect their “natures.” The website states, “If whites permit themselves to become a minority population, they will lose their civilization, their heritage and even their existence as a distinct people.”
Taylor stated that the protest group attempted to stop American Renaissance from holding their conference in the Montgomery Bell Park.
“American Renaissance is running out of places to hide to hold their conference,” Braaten said. "They have it in the state park system because the state park system does not have the right to tell them ‘no.’ Virtually every private organization, whether it be a hotel or an inn or a conference center, does not allow them to hold their conference there.”
Braaten stated that the protest was successful in alerting the people of Nashville and the surrounding area of American Renaissance's events. He said that American Renaissance attempted to keep the conference quite.
“We want to send a very loud and clear message,” Braaten said. “Not only are they not welcome in Tennessee, they are not welcome anywhere. … If American Renaissance comes back next year, we will attempt to have 300 people. If they come back the year after that, we will attempt to have 1,000 protesters in attendance.”