JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – City leaders held a press conference after 11 people were arrested while protesting Monday night. Johnson City Police Chief Karl Turner and Mayor Jenny Brock said
citizens have a right to protest, but they must do so in an orderly way.
Police said a fraction of protesters left a vigil held at Founders Park Monday evening before it was over. The group then blocked the intersection of University Parkway and State of Franklin as they protested.
“We tried to persuade them to go onto the sidewalk and continue the protest. But that didn’t happen,” said Turner.
Their march through downtown lasted into the early morning hours and led to multiple arrests for disorderly conduct and blocking roadways. Police said one weapon possession arrest came from someone bringing a handgun to the rally. According to jail records, two of the arrested protesters came from outside the Tri-Cities.
“We took people to the ground as they were resisting arrest when we arrested them,” said Turner.
The THP, Greeneville Police Department, and Washington County Sheriff’s Department assisted the JCPD.
“A couple officers from the THP were assaulted as they were trying to make arrests, but it didn’t result in injuries,” said Turner.
Some protesters said Monday night they were upset with Chief Turner and Mayor Brock – who didn’t walk with them as promised.
Chief Turner said he couldn’t participate when protesters were blocking roadways.
“I got a call just before the program ended that they’d already blocked the intersection at State of Franklin and University Parkway,” said Turner. “I couldn’t join them, you know, when they were breaking the law while there at that time.”
Mayor Brock said she intends to walk with protesters on Tuesday.
“But with conditions that they follow the law, that we’ll stay on the sidewalk,” said Brock.
The mayor said she has plans to meet with some leaders of the original peaceful protest and discuss ways to create a more unified community.
“And really sit down and listen and hear what their action items could be, so we can continue to move forward,” she said.
At Tuesday’s conference, Mayor Brock said those who aren’t willing to follow the law are standing in the way of meaningful dialogue about race relations.
“Unlawful or violent protests will not lead to progress. We mustn’t let those who want chaos hijack the efforts of those who want change,” she said.
City leaders called for order amid protesters’ plans to return Tuesday night.
“We’re there to protect their right to protest,” Turner said. “But we can’t allow the protesters to disrupt order and break the law as they’re getting their message out.”