Tennessee GOP Wants to Kick Dems Who Protested Gun Violence Out of Legislature
Republican legislators in Tennessee are aiming to expel three of their Democratic colleagues after they joined protesters demanding gun control last week, The Tennessean reports.
Tennessee House Republicans introduced resolutions to expel the three reps — Gloria Johnson of Knoxville, Justin Jones of Nashville, and Justin Pearson of Memphis — on Monday, April 3. All three passed on party-line votes of 72 to 23, and a final vote is expected to be held Thursday, April 6. While the three reps will be given the chance to defend themselves, there’s little state Democrats in Tennessee will be able to do to block the explosion if the Republican supermajority holds the line.
Last Thursday, Reps. Johnson, Jones, and Pearson joined the protesters who’d gathered at the state Capitol to protest after the mass shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School. The three reps led protesters in several chants calling for gun reform. They also approached the podium between bills without being recognized to speak, which qualifies as a breach of chamber rules.
In the expulsion resolutions, Republicans said the three reps of “did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives through their individual and collective actions.” Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton — who also stripped Jones and Johnson of their committee assignments — likened their actions to an “insurrection.”
Protesters also gathered at the House Chamber yesterday to protest the expulsion, with many chanting, “Fascists! Fascists!” (Eventually, Speaker Sexton called for state troopers to clear the gallery.) Jones also posted video of an alleged altercation with Republican Rep. Justin Lafferty of Knoxville on the House floor and accused Lafferty of misconduct.
In the video Jones shared, both he and Lafferty are taking videos of the protesters in the galleries. Jones then turns around and briefly films over Lafferty’s shoulder, at which point Lafferty turns and appears to swat Jones’ phone. Jones wrote on Twitter that Lafferty “pushes me and grabs my phone.” (Lafferty’s office did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for comment.)
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Johnson, meanwhile, called the expulsion resolutions “unprecedented and utterly ridiculous,” adding that she would consider a lawsuit if she and her colleagues were expelled. Johnson also noted that Tennessee Republicans have protected their own and refused to expel members who’ve been accused of serious wrongdoing, such as former Rep. David Byrd, who was accused of sexually assaulting teenagers when he was a basketball coach.
“We had a child molester on the floor for years, they helped him get reelected and did nothing to expel him,” Johnson said. “We’ve had members pee in each other’s chairs. We’ve had members illegally prescribe drugs to their cousin-mistress, and nothing happened. But talk on the floor without permission, and you’ll get expelled.”