US state legislature expels 2 black members for gun-control protest
Washington, Apr 6 (EFE).- The Republican-controlled House of Representatives in the US state of Tennessee voted Thursday to expel two Democratic members for violating the body’s rules during a protest inside the chamber demanding action on gun control in the wake of a deadly school shooting in the state capital The two members removed, Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, are both African American. The motion to expel Rep. Gloria Johnson, who is white, fell short by one vote.
Hundreds of students and teachers filled the public gallery of the house on March 30, three days after three children and three adults were killed at the Covenant School in Nashville.
At one point during the session, Johnson, Jones, and Pearson approached the podium without being recognized, a breach of chamber rules, and led protesters in the galleries in chants calling for gun reform.
Jones used a megaphone, which is prohibited on the floor of the house.
On Monday, House Speaker Cameron Sexton moved to expel the lawmakers, who have become known as the “Tennessee Three,” on the grounds that they “did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives.”
The resolutions setting the stage for Thursday’s votes were approved overwhelmingly by the Republican super-majority.
The last time the house expelled a member was in 2016 and that case involved accusations of sexual misconduct. Another lawmaker was thrown out in 1980 for accepting a bribe.
Nashville has seen daily protests by students and teachers since the Covenant School shooting, on Thursday, those demonstrators were joined by constituents of Pearson and Johnson who traveled to the state capital by bus from Memphis and Knoxville, respectively.
Jones represents a district in metropolitan Nashville.
Supporters of the Tennessee Three came to the capitol, but most of them remained outside on the steps, as Speaker Cameron limited access to the galleries.
The first resolution to come to a vote concerned Jones, 27, who was elected to the assembly last November.
“This is not about expelling us as individuals. This is your attempt to expel the voices of the people from the people’s house. It will not be successful,” he said in his own defense.
When challenged by a Republican member for bringing the megaphone onto the floor of the House, Jones replied: “The only reason that I had to use a megaphone is because House Speaker Cameron Sexton cut my voice and the voice of 70,000 people I represent from the microphone.”
His words did not sway the GOP majority, who voted 72-25 to expel the Nashville lawmaker.
Next was Johnson, a 60-year-old educator, who survived the motion thanks to some defections among the Republicans. Sixty-six votes were needed to expel, only 65 members voted to oust the representative from Knoxville.
“America should be worried,” Johnson said afterward outside the chamber, adding that the failure to expel her “might have to do with the color of my skin.”
The third lawmaker, 27-year-old Justin Pearson of Memphis, was expelled by a vote of 69-26.
Shouts of “fascists” erupted from people in the galleries and in the capitol hall, who hailed Pearson as he walked out of the chamber with his right arm in the air. EFE ssia/dr