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After the Gun Control Rally, Tennessee Democrats are up for Expulsion from the House

  • Posted on April 7, 2023
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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 shooting.

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 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 collective actions.”

 

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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