White nationalists hold 'White Lives Matter' rally in Tennessee

White nationalists and neo-Nazis gathered in Shelbyville, Tennessee for a 'White Lives Matter' rally, which was met by counter-protesters denouncing hate.

SHELBYVILLE, TENNESSEE (REUTERS) - They came in droves. 

White nationalists and neo-Nazis gathered in the small Tennessee city of Shelbyville, Saturday, for what was dubbed as a 'White Lives Matter' rally organised by the Nationalist Front as a demonstration against refugee resettlement in the state.

Scores of counter-protesters were separated by a heavy police presence.

Knoxville resident Kimberly Smiddy says: "They are pathetic people. They don't represent Tennessee. They are from out of state, they're not even from here. And this over here is a wonderful environment."

The rally was organised by some of the same groups involved in the August Charlottesville rally, where one person was killed amid the flare of violence.

And although this rally stayed mainly peaceful, there was a clear conflict of opinion.

Tennessee sued the federal government in March, saying the state had been unduly forced to pay for refugee resettlements, a sentiment shared by many of these demonstrators.

But many on the other side say anti-immigrant legislation criminalises people of color.

Student Justin Jones says: "We have to connect what's happening here with what's happening at the capital. As I said yesterday, these white supremacists have been welcomed here by our state lawmakers who passed anti-refugee legislation, anti-immigrant legislation that criminalise black people and students and people of colour."

The protesters are taking a stand in a city that has become home to refugees from Somalia, Iraq and elsewhere.