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Knoxville Black Lives Matter leaders want change, not violence and vandalism

The vandalism in Market Square on Saturday night and in Fort Sanders on Sunday night wasn't from the Black Lives Matter group. They want to make change safely.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knoxville leaders with the group Black Lives Matter said the vandalism over the weekend doesn't represent their organization and distracts from their mission.

Those leaders emphasized that while the outrage is warranted, they're calling on Knoxville to do better.

It was a weekend full of protests and vandalism in Knoxville. Some were peaceful, others were not.

"There is outrage and that can't be denied," mental health, substance abuse and incarceration advisor for Black Coffee Justice and Sleeves 4 Needs Alison Rose said. "Police brutality is the issue here, and let's remember that."

Black Lives Matter leaders in Knoxville organized the peaceful protest on Friday through Downtown Knoxville.

RELATED: 'Our voices should be heard' | Hundreds in Knoxville protest police brutality

While the vandalism in Market Square on Saturday night and in Fort Sanders on Sunday night wasn't the group's plan, Black Lives Matter leaders like Constance Every said they understand the rage.

"What's been happening the past couple of nights has been spontaneous, it's been young folks moving on action they decided amongst themselves," Black Lives Matter leader and advocate David Hayes explained. "Not in coordination with any of the older, more experienced organizers."

RELATED: KPD: 10 people arrested in Fort Sanders after shooting fireworks and vandalizing vehicles

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"Friday was excellent," Every nodded. "Saturday and Sunday, we appreciate it, we love you and I understand your outrage and cry, but again, we need to communicate all levels of everyone from top to bottom so that we stay unified as one voice."

They are demanding changes, like Knoxville Police wearing body cameras. That's already in the works for KPD, but the group said more change can happen without violence. 

RELATED: KPD Chief: Body cam testing to begin soon

"Making the police stop killing us is a good demand," Hayes said. "But, there's more things we can do."

Other demands the BLM group expressed on Friday included adding mental health and drug intervention professionals to the police force, and enforcing the Police Advisory Review Council, or PARC, in Knoxville.

After Friday's peaceful protest, recognition came from the national level. Senator Bernie Sander included footage from Knoxville in a video he posted on social media, calling for justice.

"There's no need to riot and tear things apart at this time because right now, our leadership, our political side of the fence, is ready to speak and figure out how to deem these demands into full implementation from our city," Every encouraged.

While the Black Lives Matter organization supports those who are fighting for justice, they want everything done in a safe way.

"We are aware of the danger that is present and we are now trying to disperse the youth so they do not come under harm's way because of one or two select individual who have alternative motives or agendas being present in the movement in the first place," Every added.

Black Lives Matter leaders said the next protest they have planned is on June 19, also known as the American holiday Juneteenth.

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