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Faith leaders call for peace as demonstrators march after DA announces no charges for officers in Austin-East shooting

More than 200 people gathered in downtown Knoxville Thursday night, united in frustration.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Demonstrators gathered in downtown Knoxville Wednesday and Thursday evenings after Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen announced no charges would be filed in the shooting of 17-year-old Anthony Thompson Jr. in Austin East High School.

The group chanted slogans such as "no justice, no peace" and "fight back" Thursday night. They marched through the city around Main Street, Locust Street and eventually making their way to the University of Tennessee campus.

"Everyone is kind of on a heightened level, and it will take some time," said Pastor Richard Brown. "There are some things that we may not necessarily, but we can get through."

Faith leaders called for peace after the shooting and the release of the body camera video, even as activists and leaders in the East Knoxville community called for marches and demonstrations.

The first demonstration was at around 7 p.m. Wednesday evening when a group gathered in front of Knoxville Police Department headquarters. The building was gated off by the time most demonstrators arrived.

Then, by 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, they marched through the Fort Sanders area with police blocking traffic in some areas.

The second demonstration attracted more people, with more than 200 people gathering to march and rally in the city.

Faith and community leaders said that it would take strength for people to unite, have an open dialogue and work together towards solutions.

"Take a collective deep breath, that we would come together and continue the dialogue on how we can make some steps going forward that would be constructive instead of destructive," said Brown.

He also said that the safety of students should continue to be a priority. He also acknowledged that there is a division in the Knoxville community, but emphasized that it would not lead to a solution.

The protests come after days of controversy surrounding the shooting, with calls from community leaders and activists to release bodycam footage of the incident.

The Knoxville Police Department said they did not make any arrests related to the demonstrations. They also said police tried to divert traffic around the groups' paths, due to a lengthy caravan of cars involved in the demonstrations.

"From a safety measure standpoint, we would just advise those visiting downtown to remain aware of their surroundings and the possibility of public demonstrations, which could potentially impact traffic," Scott Erland said, a spokesperson with KPD. 

With the TBI's investigation into the officer-involved shooting aspect of this case, and based on the bodycam video and other evidence, Allen also said that Officer Jonathon Clabough was justified when he fired two shots in the school's bathroom. She said that he acted in his own self-defense and in the defense of the other officers. 

During the conference, Allen said that charges would not be filed against Officer Clabough.

The altercation leading to the shooting that took Thompson's life took only 11 seconds after officers went to Austin-East Magnet High School intending to arrest him on a domestic violence complaint.

During the press conference on Wednesday, Allen showed evidence that proved Thompson knew officers were likely coming to arrest him. She also pointed out that while the officers knew that Thompson was known to carry a gun, they had no reason to believe he had it with him at school.

"Finally, the KPD absolutely supports the rights of citizens to freely express themselves and peacefully assemble, which are constitutional and inalienable rights that our officers and department are sworn to protect and defend," Erland said.