Candidates competing to represent Tennessee in the U.S. Senate have condemned a white nationalist gathering slated to take place at a state park starting Friday.
Former Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, and Rep. Marsh Blackburn, Tennessee Republican, have issued statements condemning a joint conference being held at Montgomery Bell State Park near Nashville this weekend by members of the American Freedom Party and Council of Conservative Citizens, two far-right organizations designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center civil rights watchdog.
“Tennessee’s leaders must be unequivocal: there is nothing to celebrate about hatred and discrimination and these groups are not welcome in our state. Full stop,” Mr. Bredesen said, the Nashville Tennessean reported Thursday.
Ms. Blackburn adding that “hateful groups” should be “condemned in the strongest terms.”
“Despicable gatherings like this have no place in civil society, nor is this an appropriate use of state property,” she said.
Founded in 2010, the American Freedom Party advocates for issues and concerns affecting white Americans, including “Freedom from the immigration invasion ” and “Freedom to live without the imposition of foreign ideologies,” according to its website.
“We are not a white supremacist organization and people should not use that term because it’s a slur word,” said William Johnson, the group’s chairman, in a statement issued to Nashville’s local Fox affiliate. “In fact, that’s even worse than swear words. It tries to turn the public against us
“We have a lot of members that are nationalists of various stripes, not just people who are white,” he said.
The Council of Conservative Citizens, launched in 1988, recently gained notoriety after its website was cited in a manifesto written by Dylann Roof, the white supremacist convicted of murdering black parishioners inside a South Carolina church in 2015.
The group opposes “all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called “affirmative action” and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races,” according to its website.
Members of both groups will meet at Montgomery Bell State Park in Dickson this weekend to discuss topics including culture, identity, heritage and sovereignty, the event’s website says. Scheduled speakers include Michael Hill, the president of League of the South neo-Confederate group, and David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
Tennessee State Parks has no policy prohibiting individuals or entities from seeking to rent or use its public facilities, agency spokesman Eric Ward told The Tennessean.
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