Tennessee GOP Lawmakers Move to Expel Democrats Who Joined Protest Inside State Capitol

Caden Pearson
By Caden Pearson
April 5, 2023US News
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Tennessee Republican lawmakers introduced a resolution on Monday to expel three Democrat representatives after they led protest chants with a bullhorn from the House floor on March 30.

The resolution declared that state Reps. Justin Jones of Nashville, Gloria Johnson of Knoxville, and Justin Pearson of Memphis had participated in “disorderly behavior” and “did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives.”

Republican Reps. Bud Hulsey, Gino Bulso, and Andrew Farmer filed the resolution, which will be voted on Thursday in an expedited process.

Two of the three Democrats were already stripped of their committee assignments on Monday over their actions.

The resolution’s introduction was met with an eruption of anger from opponents in the gallery. This led House Speaker Cameron Sexton, a Republican, to demand that they be removed by state troopers.

At the same time, on the House floor, several lawmakers engaged in a confrontation. Jones later accused another member of stealing his phone and trying to “incite a riot with his fellow members.” Sexton deemed Jones out of order and cut off Jones’s microphone.

Sexton said the three Democrats engaged in “unacceptable” behavior that “took away the voices of the protesters.”

“Their actions are and will always be unacceptable, and they break several rules of decorum and procedure on the House floor,” he wrote on Twitter.

“In effect, those actions took away the voices of the protestors, the focus on the six victims who lost their lives, and the families who lost their loved ones,” he added. “We have always welcomed peaceful protestors to the capitol to have their voices heard on any issue. We have heard the voices of the students, the protestors, and individuals from across the state.”

Justin Jones
Democratic state Rep. Justin Jones enters the House chamber ahead of session as protesters chant demanding action for gun reform laws in the state at the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville, Tennessee, on April 3, 2023. (Seth Herald/Getty Images)

‘Did Not Follow Decorum’

Last week, when hundreds of chanting demonstrators crowded the state Capitol and its gallery, the three Democrats defied convention by moving to the front of the House chamber with a bullhorn.

Marking a breach of chamber rules, as they hadn’t been recognized to speak, they cheered on the crowd in the gallery and led chants.

The protesters were there to call for tighter restrictions on gun rights in the wake of The Covenant School shooting in Nashville. Audrey Elizabeth Hale, 28, who police said identified as transgender, opened fire at the school, shooting dead three 9-year-old children and three adults.

Democrat lawmakers have defended their breach, with House Minority Leader Karen Camper describing their actions as “good trouble.” This is a reference to the late Rep. John Lewis’s guiding principle.

On Tuesday, Pearson admitted in a letter to other lawmakers that he “did not follow decorum” and that he takes “full responsibility and accountability” for his actions.

“My walk to the House floor in a peaceful and civil manner was not an insurrection,” he wrote in a letter he shared on Instagram. “I wanted to listen and respond to the voices of Tennesseans who were not given the opportunity to speak in meaningful dialogue with us.”

Pearson’s reference to the Jan. 6, 2021 breach of the U.S. Capitol comes after Sexton said the actions of the Democrat lawmakers were equivalent, if not worse.

“Two of the members, Rep. Jones and Rep. Johnson, have been very vocal about January 6 in Washington, D.C., about what that was, and what they did today was equivalent, at least equivalent, maybe worse depending on how you look at it, of doing an insurrection in the Capitol,” Sexton told the Hallerin Hilton Hill radio show.

On Tuesday, he clarified that his comments “were not directed toward the peaceful protesters” but were instead “solely directed toward the actions of three Democrat lawmakers who rushed the well and those who led a protest on the House floor with a bullhorn.”

Pearson and Jones are both new members of the state Legislature, while Johnson was elected in 2019. All three have been outspoken critics of the Republican supermajority.

Jones was temporarily banned from the Tennessee Capitol in 2019 after throwing a cup of liquid at former House Speaker Glen Casada and other lawmakers while protesting the bust of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest inside the Capitol.

Expelling lawmakers is an extraordinary action inside the Tennessee Capitol. Just two other House members have ever been ousted from the chamber since the Civil War.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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