Two Democratic lawmakers were rejected from
the Tennessee House of Representatives on Thursday by the party in charge of
the chamber’s Republican majority for misconduct committed last week during a
gun control protest at the statehouse following the most recent school
Two young black lawmakers, Representatives Justin Jones, and Justin Pearson, were expelled by the Republican supermajority in an unusual move when milder sanctions, such as censure, were at their disposal.
One vote separated the proposal to remove
Gloria Johnson, a white female Democratic member who stood alongside them
during the demonstration on the House floor—four days had passed since a
shooting at a Nashville elementary school left three 9-year-old students and
three teachers dead.
The three resolutions to remove their
Democratic colleagues were filed on Monday by Republican Representatives Andrew
Farmer, Gino Bulso, and Bud Hulsey. They claimed that by leading the rally on
the House floor well, the Democrats had violated decorum.
The House removed Jones with a 72-25
partisan vote, while Pearson was released with a 69-26 voice. However, Johnson
was spared when it was 65 to 30 in favor of her dismissal. Republicans hold a
75-to-23 majority in the House; their removal required 66 votes.
The fact that Johnson, unlike Jones and
Pearson, did not lead shouts with a loudhailer during the demonstration last
Thursday, when hundreds of protesters poured into the statehouse, Johnson may
have escaped harm.
But during the frequently contentious
discussion, race was brought up numerous times. “You cannot discount the racial
dynamics in today’s events. While one white woman legislator is retained, two
young Black parliamentarians are dismissed.
That’s a statement,” Pearson told the media
following the vote. The events were criticized by President Joe Biden, who
tweeted that they were “shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent.”
Since the Civil War, just two Tennessee
state lawmakers have been expelled by their peers: one in 1980 for accepting a
bribe in exchange for delaying legislation, and another in 2016 after being
accused of sexual misconduct by several women.
With resounding bipartisan support, both
expulsions were approved. According to the Democratic Party of Tennessee, cash
is being raised to help any expelled candidates run in special elections. As
demonstrators called for tighter gun legislation on the House floor, the three
Democratic congressmen led the charge.
Republicans alleged “disorderly behavior”
on the part of the three in the resolutions calling for their expulsion,
dishonor to the House of Representatives through their individual and
On Thursday, hundreds of protestors
gathered outside the state house again in the rain and filled the gallery above
the House floor while holding signs calling for tighter gun regulation. They
cheered when Johnson was not expelled and screamed, “Shame on you” and “No
justice, no peace” when Pearson was removed.
According to Johnson, Jones, and Pearson, participating
in the demonstration was within their First Amendment rights, the freedom of
speech guaranteed by the US Constitution. Along with other Democratic
lawmakers, they said on Thursday that Republican leaders had stifled free
speech in the chamber by using their supermajority. Johnson claimed that this
was one of the causes of their actions last week.
Before being removed, Jones had criticized
the process. What we see in this place today is a lynch mob that has gathered
not to lynch me, but to lynch our democratic system, stated Jones. Regarding
the demonstration he and his colleagues organized on the chamber floor last
Thursday, Jones said, “At no point was their violence. We never encouraged
violence in any way.
In reality, we were urging an end to the
gun violence that terrorizes our kids daily. However, Bulso, a Republican and
the author of one of the expulsion motions claimed that Jones’ “desire to be
expelled” was evident to him. Bulso said, “He and two other representatives
effectively conducted a mutiny.” “To not expel him would be to invite him and
his colleagues to continue their mutiny on the floor of the House.”
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