(UnitedVoice.com) – Multiple protests have taken place in Tennessee in the last couple of weeks since a school shooting left six dead, including three 9-year-olds, on March 27. Thousands of teenagers and other activists descended on the state capital to participate in marches and demonstrations, demanding gun control. Now, two lawmakers have been expelled for their participation in the events.
On Thursday, April 6, the Tennessee House voted to expel three Democratic lawmakers for breaking the chamber’s rules. Representatives Justin Jones, Justin J. Pearson, and Gloria Johnson all participated in one of the protests and led them into the chamber. The vote against Johnson failed by one, but both Jones and Pearson were expelled. The move marked just the third time since the Civil War that lawmakers were kicked out of the House.
The vote also inflamed racial tensions in the state, as both Jones and Pearson are black men. The New York Times reported that when someone asked Johnson why she thought she survived the vote, she responded, “It might have to do with the color of my skin.” Pearson told a crowd that the “racial dynamic” could not be ignored. Republicans have denied the accusations of racism, pointing out that Johnson only survived by one vote.
Many Republicans accused the three Democrats of leading an insurrection in the Capitol building by disrupting normal business.
What to know as the Tennessee House votes on expelling 3 Democrats – Republicans say the trio's protest over gun laws amounted to an insurrection. Reps. Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson face a disciplinary measure used only twice since the… https://t.co/0NEpxgH9Ng
— Olav Mitchell Underdal (@omunderdal) April 6, 2023
The lawmakers have admitted that they disrupted the House by leading the protest and violated the rules of conduct but claimed the majority was trying to silence voters by expelling them. State Rep. Gino Bulso (R) said that not punishing Jones would have been like inviting him to “continue to engage in mutiny on the House floor.”
Special elections will soon be held to fill Jones’ and Pearson’s seats. The lawmakers will be able to run for the seats again and could be re-elected.
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