Tennessee braces for 'White Lives Matter' rallies
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Two Tennessee towns are bracing for protests by white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups on Saturday.

The so-called "White Lives Matter" rallies will take place in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro, and are expected to draw some of the demonstrators involved in white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, Va., in August that turned violent. 

Richard Spencer, a prominent white nationalist, has also been invited to speak on Saturday. The rallies are also expected to draw hundreds of counterprotesters. 

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Shelbyville Police said this week that they have put safety plans into place for the event, and urged protesters to act respectfully during the demonstrations. 

"Law Enforcement officers along with fire and emergency personnel will be there to maintain order, provide safety, and protect rights of freedom of assembly and speech," the police department said in a statement.

"We ask all participants on any side to respect each other's rights and respect the role of law enforcement in maintaining peace and discouraging aggressive behavior."

The City of Murfreesboro and Rutherford County, where the town is located, issued a joint statement this week distancing itself from the views of the white nationalist protesters, but said they had filed the necessary permits to hold the rally. 

"While the views of the League of the South are not from this community and do not represent those of the City and County, the First Amendment provides a right to free speech and a right to peaceably assemble, and, thus, neither the City nor the County can legally prohibit the event," the statement reads.

"The City and County, however, have carefully planned various measures to preserve and promote public safety, before, during, and after the event."

The city and county also urged residents to avoid the public square where the rally is set to take place.

The rallies are organized by the Nationalist Front, a coalition of white nationalist, white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups, that include the Nationalist Socialist Movement, the League of the South and the Traditionalist Workers Party — all of which are considered either neo-Nazi or neo-Confederate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The rallies in Tennessee are expected to be particularly closely watched by law enforcement given the events in Charlottesville in August when white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups clashed with counterprotesters. One counterprotester was killed when a car allegedly driven by a man with ties to neo-Nazi groups plowed through a crowd of people.

In a blog post earlier this month, Matt Parrott, a leader within the white nationalist Traditionalist Workers Party, called Charlottesville a "historic victory" for white nationalists, but said the Tennessee protests have been "planned with an eye toward minimizing the threat of antifa violence and the legal entanglements which marred Charlottesville."

"As this tumultuous year draws to a close and winter approaches, it’s imperative that we close out with a show of strength, a show of resolve, and a show of clarity," he wrote.