Johnson City Police prepare to monitor more protests after Tuesday night demonstrations


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- Whether protests continue in Johnson City or not, local police say they are prepared to monitor them. On Tuesday, a peaceful evening protest that began at Founders Park turned unruly by nightfall.

“They threw a few fireworks at our cruisers and stuff, and some smoke bombs. We ask, don’t do that. That doesn’t serve any purpose,” said Major Debbie Botelho with the JCPD.

Protesters rallied downtown Tuesday night

Johnson City leaders say they’re proud of the peaceful events happening during the day. Mayor Jenny Brock walked with protesters Tuesday and participated in the open dialogue session held outside City Hall.

“What they asked everybody to do for almost an hour, was just to talk to different people you didn’t know. And I just found that so enriching,” said Brock.

But as locally-organized events wrapped up around 9 p.m. – the protest took a turn.

“I was so excited when we got back to Founders Park, and then to realize there were three groups there already at Founders Park waiting, that were not from our area,” said Brock.

The JCPD said around 200 people began marching State of Franklin for a second night. In some instances, protesters blocked roadways, which police say need to stay clear.

“Because if we have somebody that needs to go to the hospital or emergency, we have to get them there,” said Major Botelho.

The protesters then moved down Main Street, chanting, ‘take a knee.’ At one point, some JCPD officers did.

No one was arrested Tuesday night. Police said protesters were generally more compliant than on Monday, which saw 11 people arrested.

“If you’re laying in the road, and you refuse to get up, we can’t leave you laying in the road. For your safety,” said Botelho.

After Tuesday night’s events, city leaders want to emphasize that progress is being made on a more personal and community level.

Mayor Brock said a meeting is planned for next week between her and some of the young leaders of the original peaceful protest. She’s telling those leaders to bring action items that the city can work toward in the near future.

Brock said the city is hoping to be more transparent on the rigorous screening and training process police officers go through.

“Things like sensitivity training and de-escalation, that’s all built into our training,” Brock said. “So if we show them that process now, so there’s an educational component from a city standpoint, just from a transparency standpoint, we show what’s going on.”

By making that process more visible, Brock said gaps that may exist in that training can be filled in.

Police are also watching social media for posts threatening anything other than peaceful protest.

“We’re monitoring that quite closely to make sure that everybody stays safe. That is our main goal,” said Botelho.

SEE ALSO: JCPD monitoring social media posts for any potential threats during future protests

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