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Authorities out in full force, parks closed for Confederate protest

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — City officials and law enforcement were more than prepared Saturday, as several groups came into the city to protest last month's removal of two Confederate statues.

Parks were closed and taped off and dozens of heavily-armed police officers and TBI agents guarded the downtown area and parks around the city, hoping for the best but prepared for the worst.

"Our partners and the Memphis Police Department were well-prepared to deal with whatever comes up," MPD Director Michael Rallings said in a morning press conference.

Members of the group “Confederate 901” drove around the I-240 loop for more than two hours, waving Confederate flags in protest of the removal of two Confederate monuments on December 20.

Health Sciences, Tom Lee and Memphis parks were completely taped off and shut down, and some nearby streets were closed.

But the only other place WREG saw protesters was at Health Sciences Park, where a group of white nationalists held up a sign reading, “diversity equals white genocide.”

"The Memphis City Council are not going to be able to surreptitiously remove these monuments to our heritage and history and culture without a backlash," said self-proclaimed Arkansas white nationalist Billy Roper.

And though city officials, the NAACP and several Mid-South activist groups asked counter-protesters to stay home, some still chose to show up.

"Why would anybody threaten folks over taking down a statue in our city? These people aren’t from here. What does this have to do with them?" asked Edie Love, with the group S.U.R.G.E. (Showing up for Racial Justice).

The plan was to hold a rally in the city, but “Confederate 901” tells WREG their permit was denied.

MPD says they never applied for one.

"Let me make sure it’s clear to everyone that no one applied for a permit that is representing any Confederate group that we have seen," Rallings said.

Roper tells WREG he came to Memphis to spread the message that “his people” are being replaced.

"My people are being demographically replaced by over waged minority status and the nation, which was created of, by and for us specifically," he said. "We all bleed red – so does a donkey, so does a dog, they’re not my equals."

In the end, "Confederate 901” said in a Facebook video that they got their message across.

And counter-protesters felt like love won.

"Hatred has no place here, period," Love said.

The group #TakeEmDown901, which fought to remove those statues, said that instead of counter-protesting, they would spend the day in the community giving back.