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Lawmakers face expulsion from the Tennessee House

House Democrats in Tennessee faced expulsion from the legislature as they went through proceedings following a protest in the state's capital.
Lawmakers face expulsion from the Tennessee House
Posted at 5:42 PM, Apr 06, 2023

After a brief protest on the Tennessee House floor in Nashville last week, three House Democrats faced expulsion from the legislature.

Nashville Democrat Rep. Justin Jones was expelled around 3:30 p.m. ET on Thursday. Rep. Gloria Johnson, a Democrat from Knoxville, maintained her seat in a 65 to 30 vote. 

Reps. Jones and Johnson were stripped of House committee positions Monday. Rep. Justin Pearson, a Democrat from Memphis, was just seated and has no committee assignments.

Later in the day Scripps News Nashville reported that the legislature voted to expel Rep. Pearson as well.

Additionally, all three legislators had their ID badges for entry into the legislature deactivated. 

No damage was done to the Tennessee capitol nor were there any arrests made on the day that Jones, Pearson and Johnson led a crowd from the state's House floor in the middle of a session while chanting. 

Rep. Jones had a bullhorn. On that day, hundreds of people arrived at the state's capitol to try and talk with lawmakers about gun legislation after The Covenant School shooting. 

In the mass shooting, six people — including three who were nine years old — were killed by a 28-year-old former student. 

The lawmakers stopped the protest after they were admonished by members of their own party, and later by the Speaker of the House in Tennessee after a 30-minute recess. 

Rep. Jones and Rep. Pearson were not formally reprimanded on the House floor Thursday. Johnson stood with the other two.

Republicans wanted to show a seven-minute video of what they claimed happened a week ago on Thursday.

"This is more or less a trial," said Rep. Bo Mitchell, a Democrat from Nashville.

"This is unfair to the defense. From my understanding, the three individuals have not been allowed the video by the leadership. How is that fair when you won't even let them have the video? How is that fair? Not just the folks in the room is watching. The entire nation is watching us today. If you want to show the entire nation how things work here, just go right ahead or we can pretend to be fair one time," he said. 

Rep. Johnny Garrett said the video would depict the events of that day. He said it wasn't anything nefarious or edited in a misleading way. The House cameras turned to the vote board, meaning the public didn't see it firsthand unless they were physically there.

The House voted down party lines to show the video.

Jones and Pearson held their hands in a fist while the video played. Protesters in the gallery mimicked the same.

"We are creating a circus," said Rep. Antonio Parkinson, a Democrat from Memphis. 

"This is embarrassing. The world is watching us. They know what happened was unfair. They know this didn't happen when Jeremy Durham was expelled."

Jones said he wasn't standing for himself, but for his constituents.

"I was standing for those young people, many of whom can't vote yet, but they are terrified about the trend of mass shootings," Jones said. 

"That is why I walked up to the well. We brought a megaphone because you cut their representatives off from the microphone. There is a time when people get tired of being sick and tired. My colleagues — what we did was act in our responsibility as legislators."

This story was originally published by Scripps News Nashville. 

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