- Associated Press - Thursday, July 14, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - As Black Lives Matter protests pop up in major Tennessee cities, police say they’ve made concerted efforts to avoid arrests and maintain peace.

Most events in Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga in response to last week’s police shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota - and the retaliatory killings of five police officers by a black sniper in Dallas - have been peaceful, according to local media outlets.

Nashville’s police department shared photos of officers praying and smiling alongside demonstrators over the weekend, and officers helped eight overheated people get back to their meeting point in Centennial Park, the Tennessean reported (https://tnne.ws/29yAqje).

“We’re here to serve everybody,” Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson said this week. “As much as possible, we want to allow that to occur.”

“We try to be as tolerant as possible; we try to be as accommodating as possible,” Anderson added. “Along the way, maybe we build some mutual respect.”

According to Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, his city “set an example for the world” Sunday after police avoided arrests and violence when protesters blocked both sides of the Interstate 40 bridge over the Mississippi River for more than four hours.

In Knoxville, police Chief David Rausch said his officers and protesters have been working together to help keep the peace. Police there directed traffic around roughly 100 people who blocked a major intersection for about 15 minutes Friday.

“The experience here so far has been that if we feel there’s a safety issue, we have a conversation with those who are engaged in the protest and let them know,” Rausch said. “They have been very good at adjusting with us.”

In a statement, the Chattanooga Police Department vowed to “supply activists, marchers, organizers and citizens with a safe environment to express their views.” Police in the city worked with protesters during demonstrations Saturday, Sunday and Monday without any problems.

“We support protesters and proponents alike,” Chief Fred Fletcher said in a statement. “It’s our job to keep everyone safe.”

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