Tennessee state legislature votes to expel TWO Democrats a week after their gun control


The Tennessee House of Representatives has voted to expel two young, black, Democrat members of the state legislature – a week after they joined a protest against gun laws, bringing a bullhorn onto the House floor amid a noisy demonstration.

Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, both 27, were joined in their protest on March 30 by Gloria Johnson, 60, a veteran member of the legislature, who is white.

Jones and Pearson were voted out of the House on Thursday. Johnson was not.

Asked why she avoided expulsion, Johnson said it ‘might have to do with the color of my skin.’  

Until Thursday, only two people had been expelled from the Tennessee state legislature since the Civil War. 

Joe Biden called the vote ‘shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent’.

He tweeted: ‘Three kids and three officials gunned down in yet another mass shooting. And what are GOP officials focused on? Punishing lawmakers who joined thousands of peaceful protesters calling for action.

‘It’s shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent.’

Justin Jones (pictured), a 27-year-old Democrat representing Nashville in the Tennessee House, was expelled on Thursday - a week after he joined two other Democrats in a protest over gun laws on the House floor

Justin Pearson, 27, who represents Memphis, was also expelled

Justin Jones (left), a Democrat representing Nashville, and Justin Pearson (right), who represents Memphis, were both expelled on Thursday – a week after the two 27-year-olds joined Rep. Gloria Johnson in a protest over gun laws on the House floor

Gloria Johnson, 60, representing Knoxville, is seen standing with Johnson and Pearson. She was spared expulsion, while the two 27-year-old black men were kicked out

Gloria Johnson, 60, representing Knoxville, is seen standing with Johnson and Pearson. She was spared expulsion, while the two 27-year-old black men were kicked out

Justin Jones is seen speaking to reporters shortly after the vote to expel him from the House of Representatives in Tennessee, as a punishment for his participation in a March 30 protest

Justin Jones is seen speaking to reporters shortly after the vote to expel him from the House of Representatives in Tennessee, as a punishment for his participation in a March 30 protest

Jones said after the vote that it showed Tennessee was ‘on a path toward authoritarianism’, and his lawyers were analyzing whether the expulsion vote was legal. 

‘This should sound the alarm across the nation, that we are entering some very dangerous territory,’ he said.

He said that the three ‘are in this together’, and he was heading to the public gallery to support the other two as he is no longer allowed to enter the House floor.

Jones said: ‘We are multiracial, intergenerational – we represent Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville. We stand united.

‘Because this is not the end.

‘But if we don’t act, we lose our democracy. Today was a signal that we have lost democracy in Tennessee and we are on a path toward authoritarianism, to be quite honest.’

He said he was not sure if he would run for office again, but would ‘stand with the people’, and added: ‘We were saying, let’s pass an assault weapons ban. And they assaulted democracy.’

He said expelling him from the House was ‘unconstitutional’, and said he is consulting his legal advisers for the next steps. 

The House was shown video of the March 30 demonstration, with the three Democrats joined by protestors. 

They used a bullhorn to lead supporters in the public gallery in chants for gun reform, and as a result were accused of ‘disorderly behavior’ in the Tennessee House of Representatives.

The three Democrats raised their fists in the air as video of the disruption played, during the vote to expel them. Cheers and applause were also heard as the video played. 

All three progressive representatives were seen speaking with one another as the short clip ended.

Tennessee State Troopers blocked the stairwell leading to the legislative chambers on Thursday

Tennessee State Troopers blocked the stairwell leading to the legislative chambers on Thursday

Tennessee State Representative Justin Pearson, Gloria Johnson and Justin Jones link arms as they walk in the State House

Tennessee State Representative Justin Pearson, Gloria Johnson and Justin Jones link arms as they walk in the State House

Heavy security was present as the vote was held.

Tennessee Republicans accused the protestors and the Democratic House members of disruption when they interrupted House proceedings March 30.

The resolution to expel the lawmakers says that they brought: ‘disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives through their individual and collective actions.’ 

The trio had joined hundreds of protestors who marched to the State Capitol last week calling for stricter gun laws.

Six people, including three nine-year-old children, were killed when Nashville shooter Audrey Hale opened fire at The Covenant School on March 27.

Three adults – Cynthia Peak, 61, Katherine Koonce, 60, and Michael Hill, 61 – were killed, along with three nine-year-old students: Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney. 

Hundreds of people invaded the Capitol on March 30, demanding that the Republican-led Statehouse pass gun control measures. 

House leadership later described it as an ‘insurrection,’ aping language used around the attack on the U.S. Capitol by Donald Trump’s supporters in January 2021. 

Protestors and Democrats accused of 'disorderly behavior' in the Tennessee House of Representatives salute with their fists in the air as video of 'disruption' is played during vote to expel the three members

Protestors and Democrats accused of ‘disorderly behavior’ in the Tennessee House of Representatives salute with their fists in the air as video of ‘disruption’ is played during vote to expel the three members

Footage from the House floor showed protestors, Democratic members - Reps. Justin Jones, and Justin Pearson - all saluting in support of their behavior when they used a bullhorn to lead supporters in the public gallery in chants for gun reform last week

Footage from the House floor showed protestors, Democratic members – Reps. Justin Jones, and Justin Pearson – all saluting in support of their behavior when they used a bullhorn to lead supporters in the public gallery in chants for gun reform last week

Heavy security was present at the House of Representatives in Tennessee as they prepare to vote on a resolution filed by Republican leadership to expel three Democratic leaders for 'disorderly behavior'

Heavy security was present at the House of Representatives in Tennessee as they prepare to vote on a resolution filed by Republican leadership to expel three Democratic leaders for ‘disorderly behavior’

Protesters gathered calling for the ban of 'assault weapons' as the House of Reps. prepared to vote

Protesters gathered calling for the ban of ‘assault weapons’ as the House of Reps. prepared to vote

Jones and Johnson were stripped of their committee assignments in the aftermath  by Republican leadership. 

Pearson, however, did not serve on a committee.

Expulsion votes are rare and in Tennessee. 

The House of Representatives has only voted to expel a member twice since the Civil War. 

One vote was to expel a sitting lawmaker who was convicted of soliciting a bribe, and another for a majority whip who was facing allegations of sexual misconduct.

Two-thirds of the House needed to vote in favor of the expulsion in order for it to pass. 

Tennessee State Troopers stand guard at the outside the House chamber

Tennessee State Troopers stand guard at the outside the House chamber

Rep. Justin Jones speaks at the statehouse, as Republicans who control the Tennessee House of Representatives prepare to vote on whether to expel him and two others

Rep. Justin Jones speaks at the statehouse, as Republicans who control the Tennessee House of Representatives prepare to vote on whether to expel him and two others 

Rep. Justin Pearson gestures while entering the statehouse on Thursday

Rep. Justin Pearson gestures while entering the statehouse on Thursday

A demonstrator holds a placard while protesters gather ahead of the Republican vote to expel three Democratic members

A demonstrator holds a placard while protesters gather ahead of the Republican vote to expel three Democratic members

On Monday, three Republicans filed resolutions that the three Democrats be expelled and they successfully asked for an expedited process with a vote Thursday. 

The resolutions claim the three ‘did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives,’ according to the Tennesseean newspaper. 

The result was fresh chaos on Monday when the first resolution, targeting Pearson, was introduced.

Protesters shouted from the galleries and Pearson raised his fist in salute, while other Democrats raised their hands to object.

Members of the public chanted: ‘Fascists! Fascists!’ and wagged their fingers and fists at members. 

Instead of taking a vote, the speaker called for state troopers to clear the House galleries. 

On Monday, Reps. Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones, and Justin Pearson used a bullhorn to lead supporters in the public gallery in chants for gun reform as they face expulsion

On Monday, Reps. Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones, and Justin Pearson used a bullhorn to lead supporters in the public gallery in chants for gun reform as they face expulsion

Johnson with protesters inside the state Capitol building last week demanding gun reform

Johnson with protesters inside the state Capitol building last week demanding gun reform

Protestors last week as they gathered at the Tennessee State Capitol Building to demand action from lawmakers on gun control after The Covenant School shooting

Protestors last week as they gathered at the Tennessee State Capitol Building to demand action from lawmakers on gun control after The Covenant School shooting

Johnson later said she would consider a lawsuit if expelled, saying their protest was constitutionally protected. 

‘We’re going to push back, and we’re going to fight this because it’s unprecedented and utterly ridiculous,’ she told the Tennessean

She accused Republicans of double standards. 

‘We had a child molester on the floor for years, they helped him get reelected and did nothing to expel him,’ she added.

‘We’ve had members pee in each other’s chairs and nothing happened. But talk on the floor without permission, and you’ll get expelled.’

House Democrats said they stood behind the three. 

Lawmakers leaving on Monday evening after protests in the chamber

Lawmakers leaving on Monday evening after protests in the chamber

‘The Democratic Caucus has unanimously, formally voted to oppose the baseless resolutions for expulsion and will zealously oppose them should they come up for a vote on the House floor,’ they said in a statement.

The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators also protested the resolutions.

‘This political retribution is unconstitutional and, in this moment, morally bankrupt,’ it said. 

‘The people who elected us are calling for meaningful action to end gun violence and the people have a right to be heard through their duly elected representatives.’

Democrats and Republicans have strongly disagreed about how to respond to the Nashville massacre.  

Biden reiterated his call for a ban on assault weapons. 

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, a Republican, proposed $155m to place an armed security guard at every public school in Tennessee and to boost security presence at both public and private schools.

Who are the three Tennessee Democratic lawmakers facing expulsion? 

Rep. Gloria Johnson, Knoxville

Rep. Gloria Johnson delivered remarks on the floor of the House chamber as Tennessee Republicans tried to oust her and two other House Democrats

Rep. Gloria Johnson delivered remarks on the floor of the House chamber as Tennessee Republicans tried to oust her and two other House Democrats

Johnson, 60, was born in Colorado and moved several times during her youth because of her father’s work with the FBI.

In the seventh grade her family settled in Knoxville, according to her official campaign bio.

She attended the University of Tennessee at Knoxville with an education degree and taught elementary and high school classes for several years. 

Johnson was also active in local politics, helping with some field campaigns for Democratic elected officials. 

She was Knox County Democratic Party chairwoman in 2009 and three years later first elected to the Tennessee House representing the 13th district.

She was defeated in the 2014 election by Republican Eddie Smith but in 2018 took back her seat in a rematch with Smith.

Johnson, who is a gun owner, has made gun safety a top priority.

Rep. Justin Jones, Nashville 

Rep. Justin Jones gestures while entering the statehouse

Rep. Justin Jones gestures while entering the statehouse

Jones, 27, was born in Oakland, California, and said he has been active in political movements since he was a teenager.

In high school, he organized rallies to speak out against ‘stand your ground laws’ following Treyvon Martin’s death.

He attended Fisk University in Tennessee in 2013 and continued to take part in political activism.

After graduating, Jones worked with local community activist groups including Tennessee Healthcare Campaign – a non-profit that advocates for affordable healthcare for state residents. 

Jones ran for office last year for the open house seat for Tennessee’s 52nd district. He had no opponents in the general election.

Rep. Justin Pearson, Memphis

Memphis Representative Justin Pearson greeted swathes of people in the rotunda in Nashville

Memphis Representative Justin Pearson greeted swathes of people in the rotunda in Nashville

Pearson als 27, was born and raised in Memphis and graduated from Bowdoin College in Maine with a degree in government & legal studies and education studies.

Pearson was part of several community organizing groups and after years of political work in the non-profit sector, Pearson officially became an elected member of the Tennessee House this year in a special election to replace Barbara Cooper, the 86th district’s representative who died in October 2022.

Source: ABC News





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