July 18, 2024

Black Lives Matter group protests city council meeting

Members of a protest group associated with the nationwide Black Lives Matter movement attended the Knoxville City Council meeting on Tuesday to protest the Magnolia Avenue Corridor Plan.

// Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

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Even with vast developments in Knoxville, Amelia Parker has known for over 30 years where she could go when she wanted to surround herself in what she considers enriched, African-American culture.

“(Magnolia Ave. is) where I went to get my hair done. That’s where I found the Kumba festival, where I found different types of entertainment, where I could find after school programs. Where I could learn, you know, some African history that certainly wasn’t taught in public high schools of Knox County.”

Parker, along with a protest group associated with the nationwide Black Lives Matter movement, attended the Knoxville City Council meeting on Tuesday to protest the Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission’s Magnolia Avenue Corridor Plan.

The public forum generally only allows a half hour of speaking time for people who sign up. However, Councilman Finbarr Saunders suspended this rule since eight people signed up to speak. This gave everyone five minutes to speak on the subject.

David Hayes, a young man who lives on the south side of Knoxville, made an impassioned plea to the council to rethink their decision.

“What systems do you have in place to keep people from being priced out of their homes,” Hayes said. “Because right now, I don’t see any.”

The protest group referred to the plan as gentrification, saying that beautification of Magnolia Ave. would cause people who live in that area to be priced out of their homes. In addition, the group criticized Knoxville’s funding of additional criminal task forces, which the group says is used primarily to criminalize black youth in south Knoxville.

The development plan includes building condominiums in an overgrown lot in the Magnolia area. The community is concerned that this will lead to more discrimination and will leave certain localities including after school care to suffer.

“South Knoxville has needed services for a long time, but what kind of investors do they attract to the area? Those that will serve UT,” said Parker. “It’s not investment in any kind of infrastructure or people that want to work in the community to make it better.”

The community fears that the new demographic expected to be drawn in will drive out the current community.

“This should be considered the inner city, but we don’t call it the inner city, right? Because it’s predominantly white,” said Parker. “We want investment that doesn’t push us out. We want to be able to carve out a space in this city that represents us. That tells the history.”

The next city council meeting will be on Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. in the Main Assembly Room of the City County Building, 400 Main Street.

Jarrod Hall and Hannah Hunnicutt also contributed to this story

Featured image courtesy of creativecommons.org

Edited by Hannah Hunnicutt