PULASKI, Tenn. (WKRN) – As the Murfreesboro and Shelbyville communities brace for white nationalist rallies to be held this weekend, one nearby town has seen plenty of racially charged protests before.
Pulaski, Tennessee, known as the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan, has endured decades of rallies held by the group.
Five confederate veterans were said to have gathered at an office building in Pulaski in 1865, where they founded what is known today as the KKK.
Years later, a metal plaque was bolted to the front of the building commemorating the KKK’s birth.
Don Massey eventually bought the building.
As locals tell the story, the KKK started holding disruptive rallies in Pulaski in the 1980s.
Don Massey’s son, Bob Massey, runs a law firm next door to the old building.
“The parades got bigger, the crowds got bigger, law enforcement’s presence became much greater,” Bob Massey said. “People in town wanted to do something about it to let the general public know that’s not what Pulaski is about.”
So Don had the sign removed, then bolted and welded back onto the building, this time facing the brick wall so it could no longer be read.
“He turned it around backwards as a symbol for all of Pulaski to turn their back on racism,” said Bob Massey.
The community used the same strategy to handle the annual Klan rallies.
Businesses closed for the day, and everyone pretty much ignored the KKK members.
“Turning our back on it was the most effective way to deal with it. Because of that, although they do still come back once a year, barely anyone comes. Our businesses are still open, and we just basically ignore what they’re doing.
Vicky Harwell, who serves on the Pulaski city council, says Murfreesboro and Shelbyville should not give protesters what they want.
“Those groups, I feel, want publicity, exposure, validation,” said Harwell. “And the way that Pulaski has chosen to deal with their visits has not given them any of those things that they covet, in my opinion.”