Republicans in the Tennessee House of Representatives on Thursday voted to expel Reps. Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson, two of three Democrats who recently interrupted a floor session with chants for gun control in the wake of the deadly Covenant School shooting in Nashville.
“This is a historic day for Tennessee, but… it may mark a very dark day for Tennessee because it will signal to the nation that there is no democracy in this state,” Jones (D-52) said just before he was officially ousted in a 72-25 vote by the Republican-controlled chamber. “It will signal to the nation that if it can happen here in Tennessee, it’s coming to your state next—and that is why the nation is watching us, what we do here.”
After ousting Jones, the Tennessee House GOP moved on to the resolution targeting Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-13), who is white. That vote was 65-30, falling short of the two-thirds majority required to expel her. Republicans then turned to the measure to force out Pearson (D-86).
In the vote against Pearson, who like Jones is Black, the result was 69-26 in favor of removal and his seat was taken.
Tennessee Republicans fail to expel Tennessee Rep. Gloria Johnson.
So, it looks like the only two people being expelled today will be the two Black guys. How predictable. https://t.co/H7J1FpqSy5
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) April 6, 2023
Asked by reporters after her vote why she was spared expulsion while Jones was not, Johnson responded: “I’ll answer your question; it might have to do with the color of our skin.”
In the wake of Thursday’s three expulsion votes, Stand Up America’s executive director Christina Harvey said: “What happened today in Tennessee is a disgrace. Overturning the will of voters because you disagree with the representatives they have elected is disenfranchisement plain and simple.”
“In a democracy,” Harvey continued, “no leader should be removed from office for standing up for their constituents, especially in the wake of tragedy. This political stunt sets a dangerous precedent, leaving over 135,000 Tennessee residents, many of whom are Black, without any representation in the state House until new members are appointed or elected. The MAGA legislators who perpetrated this injustice are unworthy of calling themselves public servants.”
During the proceedings, all three Democrats were given an initial 20 minutes to defend themselves against the Republican expulsion resolutions, which were followed by questions from other lawmakers and closing remarks.
“What we see today is a lynch mob assembled to not lynch me but our democratic process.”
The room was “silent as Jones took the podium, but just outside the chamber doors, a crowd of protestors screamed cheers of support,” The Tennessean reports. “As Jones spoke in his own defense, they began chanting: ‘Go Justin go!'”
Protesters who gathered at the Tennessee State Capitol in support of Jones, Johnson, and Pearson could sometimes be heard throughout the proceedings.
Watch the proceedings:
“The world is watching Tennessee,” Jones said on the floor, “because what is happening here today is a farce of democracy.”
“What we see today is just a spectacle,” he continued, noting that Republicans have already signaled their intention to expel them. “What we see today is a lynch mob assembled to not lynch me but our democratic process. But it will not stand.”
“We called for you all to ban assault weapons, and you respond with an assault on democracy.”
— The Recount (@therecount) April 6, 2023
Directly addressing the Republicans advocating expulsion, Jones declared that “we called for you all to ban assault weapons, and you respond with an assault on democracy. That is why the nation is watching you today.”
“This is not about expelling us as individuals,” he stressed, pointing to public demands for gun control. “This is your attempt to expel the voice of the people from the people’s House, and it will not be successful.”
The Tennessee State House has expelled only two legislators since the Civil War: in 1980, after a state representative was found guilty of accepting a bribe while in office, and in 2016, when a lawmaker faced allegations of sexual harassment. https://t.co/TTB1w5JSQh
— The Recount (@therecount) April 6, 2023
The GOP effort the expel the trio has been condemned across Tennessee and the United States, with hundreds of legislators from other states, national rights leaders, and even the White House denouncing the campaign as undemocratic.
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