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‘Undemocratic’: Tennessee legislature expels 2 lawmakers over gun violence protests


two Democratic lawmakers has been thrown out of the Republican-controlled Tennessee State House of Representatives and someone was allowed to stay, marking the first partisan expulsion in the state’s modern history.

Three lawmakers — State Reps. Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson, who was expelled, and Rep. Gloria Johnson — faced separate expulsion hearings Thursday for allegedly violating the chamber’s rules of propriety by participating in a state gun control protest. Capital last week.

At one point during the protest, the trio stood at the well of the House Chambers, chanting with a megaphone. performed in view of fatal coven school shooting on March 27 in Nashville, where a former student fatally shot three children and three adults, police have said.

Days later, Tennessee Republican Reps. Bud Hulcey, Gino Bulso and Andrew Farmer sponsored eviction resolutionsThe three Democratic lawmakers argued “knowingly and intentionally brought disorder and disrepute to the House of Representatives through their individual and collective actions.”

When members of the House voted to adopt HR65 on Thursday, the first legislator Jones was expelled called the proposal “a farce” and “a lynch mob gathering not me, but our democratic process.” gathered.”

“We call on all of you to ban assault weapons and you respond with an attack on democracy,” Jones said during his 20-minute opening statement.

Following the adoption of the expulsion motion, Jones stated that his expulsion set a “precedent that any member who dissents or opposes may be expelled from a legislative body.”

“Today is a very dangerous day for America,” he said in a hallway interview after the vote.

Pearson, who sang “Power to the People” and quoted from the Bible during his opening statement, called the resolution to remove him “an injustice against the First Amendment.”

“Speaking on behalf of the last, the lost, the least, who have been left out, who have been ignored, who have been silenced but now refuse to remain silent, who do not deserve expulsion from this House, he said on Thursday evening before being escorted out of the chamber.

During her hearing, Johnson, the only lawmaker to avoid removal motions, denied allegations that she “shouted” from the well during last week’s protest. But she said she joined the protest, defying the decorum of the House, in a necessary effort to solve a “good problem”.

“All my friends at school used to call me ‘Little Miss Law and Order’ because I’m a rule-follower, and I know that rules are meant to be broken sometimes and sometimes get you in good trouble,” she said. .

“I may have broken a rule, but the words in this document are false and I did what I was compelled to do to speak for the voters in my district who begged me to bring this issue forward, He later said, pointing to HR64, which would have expelled him from the legislative body.

After the votes, Republican Speaker Cameron Sexton, who previously accused all three In an effort to incite a rebellion, he stated that he personally voted to expel all three Democratic members.

“I think what you heard on the floor of the House today is that those members silenced the voice of this chamber for 45 minutes on the floor of the House, led those protesting and disrupted the business that We were doing,” he said in an interview with News Nation. “What I would say are actions have consequences.”

The three Republican lawmakers who introduced the eviction motions, Hulsi, Bulso and Farmer, did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Earlier in Thursday’s session, the Legislature Party had passed HB322A bill that requires schools to implement multiple security plans and security systems, including requiring locked doors and active shooter training for school security guards, was over the objections of the three members facing expulsion.

“This bill is not about school safety,” Jones said, adding that the move to “make our schools militarized zones” refuses to address the real issue, which is easy access to military grade weapons. have access.”

Johnson, a former teacher, downplayed the possibility of “a gun battle at our school doors”, while Pearson argued that “the root cause of this gun violence epidemic is something each of us needs to address.”

“We don’t need a solution that says if you don’t lock a door or get to someone with a gun, we need a solution that says let people fight wars in schools and homes and neighborhoods.” Shouldn’t go with K’s weapons.” Pearson added.

PHOTO: Protesters gather as Republicans controlling the Tennessee House of Representatives prepare to vote to expel three Democratic members for their roles in gun control demonstrations, in Nashville, Tenn., April 6, 2023 Are.

Protesters gather as the Republicans controlling the Tennessee House of Representatives vote to expel three Democratic members for their roles in a gun control demonstration at the statehouse last week in Nashville, Tenn., April 6, 2023. are ready for.

Cheney Orr/Reuters

PHOTO: Representative Justin Jones speaks at the Statehouse as Republicans controlling the Tennessee House of Representatives prepare to vote to expel three Democratic members on April 6, 2023 in Nashville, Tenn.

Rape. Justin Jones speaks at the Statehouse as Republicans controlling the Tennessee House of Representatives prepare to vote to expel three Democratic members for their roles in last week’s gun control demonstration at the Statehouse, in Nashville, Tenn. , 2023.

Cheney Orr/Reuters

Photo: Tennessee State Representative Justin Jones, Rep.  Justin Pearson and Rep.  Gloria Johnson calls on her colleagues to pass gun control legislation from the well of the House chambers at the State Capitol on March 30, 2023 in Nashville, Tenn.

Tennessee State Representative Justin Jones, Representative Justin Pearson and Representative Gloria Johnson call on their colleagues to pass gun control legislation from across the well of the House Chambers at the State Capitol on March 30, 2023 in Nashville, Tenn.

George Walker IV/USA Today Network via Reuters

President Joe Biden said in a statement that the move to oust the lawmakers was “shocking, undemocratic and without precedent.” The Republican’s argument in Tennessee focused on punishing the lawmakers who stood “in solidarity with students and families.” stood by and helped raise their voices” instead of pushing for gun control reforms.

Former President Barack Obama said on Twitter Thursday night, “This country is built on peaceful protest. No elected official should lose their job for raising their voice — especially when they’re doing it on behalf of our children.” “What happened in Tennessee is the latest example of a widespread erosion of civility and democratic norms. Silencing those who disagree with us is a sign of weakness, not strength, and will not lead to progress.”

Since the Civil War, the Tennessee State House has had only voted twice To expel a member.

But the effort to expel three Tennessee lawmakers is just one of several recent moves by state legislatures Penalizing MPs from under-represented backgrounds Taking a stand on progressive causes.

For example, Oklahoma Republicans removed the state’s only nonwhite legislator from House committees after the legislator sheltered a transgender rights activist.

PHOTO: Protesters gather as Republicans controlling the Tennessee House of Representatives prepare to vote to expel three Democratic members in Nashville, Tenn., April 6, 2023.

Protesters gather as the Republicans controlling the Tennessee House of Representatives vote to expel three Democratic members for their roles in a gun control demonstration at the statehouse last week in Nashville, Tenn., April 6, 2023. are ready for.

Cheney Orr/Reuters

By Thursday, a trio of Democratic lawmakers said they had already lost ID access to the state capitol and were stripped of any committee work.

But Pearson and Jones, incensed by their fellow Democratic lawmakers after hearing the results of their eviction votes, said they remained steadfast in fighting for their constituents.

“We will continue to fight for the people who want justice in Nashville and Memphis, the entire state of Tennessee, and the entire United States of America. We deserve it. It’s our birthright. Our heritage isn’t just some piece of paper and a constitution.” and regulations,” Pearson said in a hallway interview after his ouster. “It’s about advocacy and the ability to protest for what’s right and the ability to legislate and advocate for laws that make justice more possible.”

Jones addressed his Republican colleagues directly during his hearing.

“I pray to you that even if you evict me that you still work to address the mass shooting crisis because if I am evicted from here, I will be back with people every week, Demanding that you act,” he said.

ABC News’ Nakilah Carter contributed to this report.

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