Posted on September 10, 2018

White Nationalists Sue Tennessee State Parks After Being Charged Security Fee

Natalie Allison, Nashville Tennessean, September 7, 2018


Jared Taylor, founder of New Century Foundation, more commonly known as American Renaissance, filed suit Thursday against Michael Robertson, director of state park operations for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Nashville, comes amid a recurring debate nationally over controversial far-right groups’ use of public universities, streets and other spaces for rallies and events — and who foots the bill for increased security costs.


The May 17 to 19 event at Montgomery Bell Inn & State Park marks American Renaissance’s eighth conference at the park, where it has rented the state-owned hotel’s 125 guest rooms and 300-seat conference hall since 2012.

Following legislation passed in spring 2017, records on groups using state park facilities are no longer public.

In recent years, anti-racist protesters have shown up to the event, prompting Tennessee State Parks to deploy additional rangers and set up barricades to separate conference attendees entering the hotel from demonstrators.

American Renaissance lawsuit argues ‘unconstitutional security fee’

In the lawsuit, Taylor and American Renaissance allege that the state is imposing an “unconstitutional security fee” to ensure public safety and to cover damage caused to park facilities during the event.

The group says that upon attempting to reserve the facility for their upcoming spring event, they received from TDEC a “slightly revised contract from previous years” that holds AmRen financially responsible for the cost of extra security and argue they would also have to pay for any damage caused by protesters.

The contract calls for a 10 percent refundable security deposit — in addition to the reservation deposit — that would cover expenses exceeding typical state staffing for the facility and other costs above normal operating expenses at the park, in addition to repairs for damage.

TDEC spokesman Eric Ward said the agency updated its group reservation contract this year, and the contract AmRen received is standard for group reservations across all state park hospitality facilities.


AmRen says that holding the group responsible for security costs represents a “content discrimination in the form of a heckler’s veto,” describing protesters as a “hostile mob” that the state is permitting to damage property.

{snip} TDEC hasn’t previously announced reports of any property damage that protesters have caused at the state park.


AmRen is seeking attorney’s fees, a ruling that the state violated their right to free speech by requiring them to pay a security fee and an injunction prohibiting TDEC from charging them security fees.

White nationalist group relocated to Tennessee after private venues canceled

The decades-old publication that brands itself as a “white advocate” has held conferences since 1994. Those opposed to the publication and its online community believe the group promotes a form of intellectual, suit-and-tie racism.

In the few years preceding 2012, the AmRen conferences had bounced around Washington, D.C.-area hotels, with many getting moved or canceled due to private venues withdrawing.

“It’s very embarrassing to plan a conference but then have to tell people, ‘Sorry, we’re not having a conference after all,’” Taylor told USA TODAY NETWORK — Tennessee last fall. “So, we no longer wish to run that risk.”

One year, Taylor said, they “got kicked out of four hotels.”

Then AmRen came to Tennessee and Montgomery Bell State Park in Burns.

Taylor said American Renaissance searched around the country, but hasn’t been able to find a larger public venue that offers what Montgomery Bell State Park Inn & Conference Center does in Tennessee: a place to hold the conference and stay overnight without having to come and go and risk clashes with protesters.