At least 10,000 march through downtown Nashville in peaceful protest

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee Highway Patrol tells News 2 at least 10,000 people marched through the streets of Nashville on Thursday afternoon demanding racial justice.

Franklin teenagers Jade Fuller and Emma Rose Smith, both 15, founded the coalition, Teens 4 Equality, with three other teenagers, hoping to create a conversation of unity in Tennessee.

The coalition planned the march with the support of Black Lives Matter Nashville. The rally started at Bicentennial Mall at 4 p.m. and ended with a march to the State Capitol.

Fuller and Smith said they were motivated after the death of George Floyd.

At Thursday’s march, News 2’s CB Cotton spoke with Smith who said, “…we’re the face of tomorrow and if we don’t start changing things today, there won’t be a better future tomorrow.”

Fuller said she hoped people could shift their focus to the peaceful protests, in a previous interview with News 2 both Fuller and Smith said they always anticipated for Thursday’s planned march to be peaceful.

On Wednesday, Fuller said, “The protest I went to on Saturday [the ‘I Will Breathe’ rally] …for the first four hours of it, and even when it ended…was completely peaceful. People are saying peaceful protesters, are riot-ers. They aren’t, they’re separate.”

MORE: Nashville Farmer’s Market plans to operate ‘business as usual’ ahead of Thursday protest

The nearby Nashville Farmers’ Market’s executive director told News 2 they’ve been coordinating with the Bicentennial Mall over the past few days.

Leaders at the market said their plan has always been to close 4 p.m. Some operators may choose to close early so their employees can attend the rally or go home.

“We’re not modifying our hours of operation for the rally that’s taking place in Nashville, we’re continuing to open as planned and we’ll adapt as we need to if we hear we need to do that,” said Executive Director Tasha Kennard.

MORE: Downtown Nashville businesses prepare for another protest

Many of the businesses on Broadway are still boarded up following Saturday night’s riots, while others have made preparations.

“We only plan on running one shift that day and we are going to close as early as we can just to make sure all my employees get home safe, make sure we stay safe as possible,” said Kris Mayfield the General Manager of Savannah’s Candy Kitchen in Nashville.

However, other establishments like John Rich’s Redneck Riviera have boarded up their windows with plans to be closed for the day. While an employee at Legends Gift Shop told News 2 they will not be boarding up, saying they refuse to “give in.”

The owner of Layla’s Honky Tonk told News 2 they plan to stay open until at least 7 p.m. as of right now, but expects there will be a curfew. She said the bar has only been open five days since COVID-19 and three of those days had a curfew, making it hard on the cities small business owners.

Most business owners told News 2 they were waiting for guidance from Mayor Cooper as to how to handle Thursday evening’s event.

Thirty downtown businesses and buildings were damaged Saturday in Nashville by vandals, according to Metro police, including multiple fires set at Nashville’s Historic Courthouse.

Business in the Hickory Hollow area of Antioch have also boarded up their storefronts as a precaution for potential riots.

Protest organizers emphasized the rally would be a peaceful event calling for an end to injustices toward the black community. In the end, the actual event itself was peaceful.

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