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Three Tennessee Lawmakers Face Expulsion After Joining Gun Protest

Source: Seth Herald / Getty

In a shocking display, the Republican-led House in Tennessee’s state legislature voted to expel two Black Democrat lawmakers over their support of gun control reform.

On Thursday (April 6th), the House chamber led by members of the Republican Party voted 72-25 to expel Rep. Justin Jones, who represents a district in Nashville. They went on to vote 69-26 to oust Rep. Justin Pearson of Memphis. Their effort to expel Rep. Gloria Johnson failed by a single vote with the count being 65 – 30. When questioned by the press about the differences in the voting outcomes between her and Pearson and Jones, she replied: “I’ll answer your question; it might have to do with the color of our skin.”

Pearson told reporters before taking the floor for the vote: “This is a first in American history. And we are losing our democracy to white supremacy. We are losing our democracy to patriarchy.” He and Jones would lambast the GOP membership in their remarks before the vote. “The world is watching Tennessee,” Jones said. “What is happening here today is a farce of democracy.” He would go on to call the Republican members a “lynch mob” and point out their hypocrisy. ‘For years, one of your colleagues, an admitted child molester, sat in this chamber – no expulsion’, he said in his speech that has gone viral.

The three lawmakers were singled out for their participation in a protest led by students and parents at the state capitol a week earlier, days after a horrific school shooting in Nashville that claimed the lives of six people including three 9-year-olds. Jones, Pearson, and Johnson used megaphones to lead the chants of protesters that called out GOP lawmakers for obstructing efforts to reform gun control laws.

The resolutions to expel “The Tennessee Three” were practically identical, and claimed their protests “reflects adversely upon the integrity and dignity” of the House. Biographical information for Jones and Pearson was wiped from the legislative body’s website and both seats were listed as vacant. The expulsion votes have only occurred three times in Tennessee House history according to a report – for contempt, bribery, and sexual misconduct. Despite the alarming situation, there is hope – the empty roles would normally be filled by special election, and Pearson and Jones can run again in their districts and be appointed to fill the slots. If both regain their seats, state law prevents them from being expelled for the same offense.