The students involved in the protests were from nearby black colleges including Fisk University, Tennessee Agricultural & Industrial State University, Meharry Medical College, and American Baptist Theological Seminary. An estimated mob of two hundred white citizens converged on the protesters during a sit-in at the Kress building on February 27, 1960. These white counter-protesters attacked the Nashville students, yet the police responded to the violence by arresting 81 of the non-violent African American student protesters. These students were charged with disorderly conduct and faced disciplinary actions from some of the schools in the city.
While white counter-protesters in Nashville were typically less violent than many cities of the Deep South, several civil rights protesters were targeted along with African American leaders and churches. Z. Alexander Looby, a black Nashville Civil Rights Attorney, was targeted by white supremacists who bombed his home on April 19, 1960. On the same day, four thousand students, including future U.S. Congressman John Lewis, marched together to the Nashville courthouse to meet Mayor Ben West. One protester asked if the segregation of lunch counters that was happening in Nashville was morally right, and the mayor answered that he no longer supported segregation. Other white business leaders agreed with the mayor's assessment owing to the disruption of their downtown business establishments that resulted from the protests. On April 19, 1960, six business owners agreed to halt their practice of racial discrimination and serve all patrons at their lunch counters.