Opinion: First Amendment, Two Interpretations favor white supremacists

Jan 18, 2021 at 09:17 am by Waterman

The Lodge at Montgomery Bell State Park (From tnstateparks.com)

In May 2019, a group of white supremacists and neo-fascists under the umbrella of American Renaissance (AmRen) held its annual conference at the lodge at Montgomery Bell State Park near Burns, Tennessee. As with every meeting AmRen had held at park since 2012, protesters were on hand to express their outrage at AmRen's ideology, but more so that AmRen was allowed to discuss and plan its ideological and political strategies in publicly owned facilities.

While the conference attendees appeared to be free to come and go without restriction and enjoyed the comforts of the lodge, the protesters were herded single file through a metal detector and contained in an enclosed “protest pen” about an acre in size with no restroom facilities or running water and very little shelter from the sweltering late-spring heat and humidity. The protesters weren't allowed in or near the lodge building.

The law enforcement presence was astounding and included officers from the Tennessee Highway Patrol, sheriff's deputies and park and local police. They had K-9 officers. Some were on horseback, and a bus from the Tennessee Department of Corrections had been brought out in the event of mass arrests. In retrospect, it's clear that if the law enforcement-to-protester ratio in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 of this year had been anything close to what it was on that hot day in Tennessee in 2019, nobody would have gotten anywhere close to the doors and windows of the Capitol Building. But unlike the police in D.C. who should have been there to protect against the racists and fascists outside the building, the police in Tennessee for the AmRen conference were there to protect the ones inside.

AmRen is the forum for the New Century Foundation, designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a white nationalist hate group. The group uses dubious credentials and pseudo-pedantic language to promote the centuries-old mythology that people of color are mentally, morally and genetically inferior to whites. Members of the group have argued that blacks have a higher incidence of psychopathy than whites and have advocated “peaceful ethnic cleansing” and the creation of a white ethno-state. Many, if not most, of the participants in the January 6 uprising in Washington espouse the same philosophy, and it's entirely plausible that AmRen subscribers helped to plan and execute this shocking anarchist insurrection.

The protesters represented a coalition of community groups including the Tennessee Anti-Racist Network, Statewide Organization for Community eMpowerment, National Peace and Justice Center, NAACP, Women's March Tennessee and various clergy. Several were arrested, including one young woman who was stealthily followed by a law enforcement officer when she slipped away from the crowd and out of sight into the woods to answer nature's call in private (see above comment regarding the lack of restroom facilities). At least one protester collapsed from heat exhaustion.

In the wake of the event, the State of Tennessee lost a lawsuit that had been filed by AmRen, who argued that the tab for the additional police presence for the previous year's conference was unconstitutional, forcing the State to fork over more than $46,000. The 2018 event was attended by an even greater number of protesters. The 2020 conference was canceled due to the COVID pandemic, but AmRen has booked the Montgomery Bell lodge once again for its 2021 gathering.

On Jan. 12, 2021, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) held a public hearing to discuss revisions to its rules governing demonstrations in state parks. The proposed new rule places onerous restrictions on permits to demonstrate in state parks through deliberately vague criteria for permit approval as well as other new constraints. It openly states that some park areas “are not intended to be open places for free expression by or between citizens” and gives broad discretion to the park manager and others in the TDEC hierarchy regarding the issuance and revocation of permits. The upshot is that TDEC simply doesn't want these protests in state parks.

Many people thought that the current administration would crater at some point, but few suspected that the fall would materialize as anything so spectacular and terrifying as the January 6 coup attempt, a violent invasion of the Capitol that left at least five dead, threatened the well-being of lawmakers and resulted in damage, desecration and defilement of national holy ground. Two weeks later, we are still reeling from this incursion, and it will be years, maybe decades before all of the questions generated by this incident are answered, if ever. But one thing became immediately clear, which is that the perpetrators of this rebellion, who are cut from the same bolt as the Amren crowd—white supremacists, nationalists, conspiracy theorists, alt-right propaganda junkies and maybe even a few sitting politicians—are a threat to the survival of the nation.

So in summary, the State of Tennessee, whether through legal risk aversion, anticipation of the financial benefits of renting blocks of hotel and conference rooms or sympathy toward the attendees, is perfectly OK with hosting an event where the racist enemies of democracy and equality can review and refine their plans and pat each other on the back for the progress they've made so far. American Renaissance, the Proud Boys, Boogaloo Boys, Ku Klux Klan et al., after all, are free to enjoy their First Amendment rights on public land. On the other hand, the State seeks to place a chokehold on those who would peacefully take a stand in lawful protest of that event.

More to follow.



Comments

Well this was clearly written by some babysitter, one of the geniuses that gobbles up the make up tutorial videos that occupy the space once known as YouTube. Luckily American Renaissance saved me from having to read the entire high school senior year project paper. They served up the funniest parts. I know it was just an opinion piece buy some hair hatted zoomer know-nothing, but perhaps the most ridiculous part is this somebody read it and thought yeah let’s put that in our publication. Absolutely embarrassing. Amren The national treasure, and it is just too bad that it hurt your feelers never they point out the fax. Look out everyone the white supremes are on horseback and headed your way! Hamburgers!!
Dictation is not the most accurate way to post, but is necessary from time to time
This article contains a number of factual errors, inaccuracies, and one thinly disguised slander with no supporting evidence against AmRen conference attendees - like me, for instance. I've attended seven AmRen conferences at Montgomery Bell State Park. I'm not a "white supremacist" or "neo-fascist," and I've never met anyone there who is, least of all the man who organizes and runs American Renaissance, Jared Taylor. Another error: the female protestor who decided to void her bladder in public was not protesting the AmRen conference, but a different conference, of a different organization, a month or two later. Now, let's cut to the chase about why a large police presence was necessary at Montgomery Bell, and why protesters against AmRen were not allowed to enter the hotel-conference center during the event, and were kept some distance away. It is because - in 2017 - when a judge ordered police to allow protestors inside the building, and gave protestors the right to exercise their 1st Amendment rights face to face with the AmRen people, the protestors heckled, harassed and screamed at attendees whenever they went to their cars or stepped outside for some fresh air. Protestors tried to block with their bodies cars of the attendees from leaving the parking lot. Finally, one protestor - wearing homemade body armor under his shirt - provoked a fight with an older conference attendee, injuring him and sending him to the hospital. Because of these abuses of their 1st Amendment rights by the protestors themselves, the police since then have been allowed by a judge to keep protestors at a distance from the AmRen conference, although that has not prevented them from harrasing and even throwing bottles at attendees' cars as they drove into Montgomery Bell in 2018 and 2019. Also, to the sly suggestion that "...AmRen subscribers helped to plan and execute this shocking anarchist insurrection [the Capital riot on Jan. 6]," where is the evidence for that charge? Finally, it is clear the author of this piece is not upset about freedom of speech rules favoring "white supremacists." He is upset that protestors have been prevented by law enforcement from destroying freedom of speech for AmRen conference attendees.
Oh man....as soon as you mentioned/quoted the Southern Poverty Law Center you lost me...they are one of the biggest hate groups in America. An awful buch of Nazi haters.
Waterman, or should I say Waterperson to be politically correct, you are free to leave the state of Tennessee. Please. You obviously hate everything the Volunteer state stands for, and would feel much better in lets say the Failed Socialist State of Illinois. Please move. Give out your address and I bet you will get lots of help in loading the van.
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