The mass shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School on March 27 has galvanized the local community to call for change. Some elected leaders are using their platform to push for gun control legislation such as Tennessee House of Representatives members Justin Jones, Gloria Johnson, and Justin Pearson. When protesters flooded the gallery in the chamber on March 30 to call on representatives to act, Jones, Johnson, and Pearson joined the protesters’ chanting.
Tennessee House Republicans, who control the chamber, voted today (April 6) to retaliate against Democrats who took part in those actions. The legislative body voted to expel Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson from the House. They are the two Black members of what is now referred to as the “Tennessee three.” Johnson, a white woman, kept her place in government after she failed to get a supermajority vote needed for expulsion.
The move has only been used a few times since the Civil War. While most state legislatures have the power to expel members, it’s usually used as a punishment for lawmakers accused of serious misconduct. The trio walked onto the House floor this morning holding hands and Pearson raised his fist to the gathered crowd during the Pledge of Allegiance.
“It is no coincidence that the two youngest Black lawmakers in the state of Tennessee, and one of two women, are on trial today,” Pearson told reporters ahead of the House vote to expel him. “This is what happens when you lose democracy.” Watch the clip below.
Even with being booted, Jones and Pearson might not be gone for long. County commissions in their districts are given the task of picking replacements to serve until a special election can be scheduled. Any expelled lawmakers would be eligible to be appointed back to their seats and would also be eligible to run in the special election.
In the hearing before the expulsion, Republican Rep. Sabi Kumar advised the Black Democrat to focus less on race, as seen in the clip below. Jones was blunt with his answer: “I’m not here to make friends. I’m here to make a change for my community.”