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Knoxville police and city leaders outline safety plan for protests

The Knoxville Police Department said it works to protect the first amendment and to keep people safe, including during citywide protests.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knoxville Police is laying out how it plans to respond after two days of protests, and more planned for the weekend. The department said its goal is to protect free speech and to guarantee everyone stays safe.

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Knoxville on Wednesday and Thursday, with some in a caravan of cars and others on foot.  The group believes the police shooting of 17-year-old Austin-East Magnet High School student Anthony Thompson Jr. is unjust.

Many protestors held signs that said slogans similar to "Long Live Ant" while chanting "fight back" and "no justice, no peace."

School Board member Evetty Satterfield said that she supports the demonstrations.

"I think everyone has a lane to create justice," Satterfield said. "People are taking advantage of their rights, and then the right to be an American, which is that you have the right to peacefully protest. So that makes me happy because people are exercising their rights."

She doesn't think people in power should turn a blind eye to the demonstrations, either. Instead, she said they should watch and listen.

"I think it's important for us city leaders, such as myself, to not get in the way of their lane, so I can continue to do the work in my lane," Satterfield said. "There's a macro and a micro level to creating change, and the protesters are doing what they have liberty to do."

The Knoxville Police Department agrees that freedom of speech is important, and the department wants to keep everyone safe while ensuring they can peacefully protest.

The department said it would not go into specifics about its plan on handling the protests, but said staff will be stationed throughout the city. Officers even directed traffic around the protestors Wednesday and Thursday.

KPD spokesperson Scott Erland said in part, "We would advise those visiting downtown to remain aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious or criminal activity so we can respond appropriately."

Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon said she "has been, and will continue to be, an ardent supporter of free speech and peaceful protests. Peaceful marches and other events can be an important step on the road toward healing."

KPD said it will continue to monitor potential protests downtown this weekend.