Since a school massacre on March 27 that left six people dead, including three 9-year-olds, several protests have taken place in Tennessee over the past few weeks.
To join in marches and demonstrations calling for gun regulation, thousands of youths and other activists gathered on the state capital. Two legislators have already been dismissed for taking part in the activities.
Three Democratic state representatives were expelled from the Tennessee House on Thursday, April 6, for violating the house’s rules. Representatives Gloria Johnson, Justin J. Pearson, and Justin Jones all took part in a protest and led it into the house.
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
Jones and Pearson were both dismissed, while the motion to remove Johnson was defeated by one vote. Only three times since the Civil War have members been expelled from the House, and that was the recent action.
Given that Jones and Pearson are both black men, the vote significantly heightened racial tensions in the state. According to the New York Times, Johnson said, “It might have to do with the color of my skin,” when someone asked her how she felt she had survived the vote.
The “racial dynamic” could not be disregarded, Pearson warned the audience. Republicans have refuted the claims of racism by highlighting the fact that Johnson only won by one vote.
Numerous Republicans charged the three Democrats with inciting an uprising within the Capitol by interfering with daily operations.
The lawmakers acknowledged that they interrupted the House and broke the code of conduct by spearheading the protest, but they maintained that the majority was trying to quiet the voters by ejecting them.
State Rep. Gino Bulso (R) asserted that allowing Jones to get away with his misbehavior on the House floor would have been equivalent to asking him to do so.
To fill the seats vacated by Jones and Pearson, special elections will shortly be held. The legislators will be eligible to run for re-election and may do so.