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Knoxville, Tennessee‘s Women’s March has increased security and changed marching routes for its Sunday event in response to a white nationalist organization announcing it will be present as part of a counter-protest.
According to Knox News, anti-abortion, anti-feminism, white nationalist group Traditionalist Worker Party has announced its intent to protest the march. Additionally, they will be protesting in support of the annual nation-wide anti-abortion rally March for Life, the largest anti-abortion rally in the nation, a branch of which is also scheduled in Knoxville on the same day.
The city’s Women’s March, its second in a row, garnered 5,000 participants last year and anticipates a larger turnout this year.
“Any movement that doesn’t defend the sanctity of life is not a movement worth having,” Matthew Heimbach, the white-only nation state group leader wrote in a blog post announcing the protest. “If we are to build a free nation for our children, we must first secure life for our children.”
The Women’s March, as a result, has relocated its demonstration area and will secure the marching route, so that participants who weren’t at the rally won’t be able to join the march. The march is working with Knoxville police to ensure safety, and protesters will be assigned a separate space to demonstrate.
In response, anti-racism and anti-white supremacy group the Holler Network called upon March for Life to denounce the hate group. Stacy Dunn, director of the Knox County chapter of Tennessee Right to Life, says she doesn’t condone white supremacy and is also working with Knoxville police on a safety plan.
“We don’t want our supporters to be harassed or bullied,” Dunn told Knox News. “We have a single agenda, to support the rights of mothers and the unborn, and we don’t agree with the radical, violent agenda of white supremacists or Antifa.”
Regardless, this year’s Knoxville Women’s March will not be brought down. According to Women’s March Coalition of East Tennessee spokesperson Kimberly Peterson, this year’s march will celebrate the city’s accomplishments in the past year. Peterson says an unprecedented number of women were elected to the Knoxville City Council this year, and that Knox County Schools preserved policies to protect LGBTQ students and staff from harassment.
Ultimately, Peterson sees the march returning annually.
“That’s going to be the focus of the march, to celebrate the success of the last year, not to be a negative and angry fest, complaining and anti-Trump and that kind of thing,” Peterson said. “It’s mainly acknowledging that we have more work to do but even in a tough political climate we got a lot of good things done.”
H/T the Cut