Tennessee legislature votes to expel two lawmakers for protesting to end gun violence News
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Tennessee legislature votes to expel two lawmakers for protesting to end gun violence

Tennessee lawmakers Thursday voted to expel two Democratic lawmakers for participating in a March 30 protest in the capitol, in which lawmakers joined students and activists in calling for an end to gun violence. Representatives Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson – coined the “Tennessee Three” – joined protestors to push for stricter gun control laws following a Nashville, Tennessee school shooting that left three children and three adults dead. The Republican-controlled legislature voted to expel Jones and Pearson, while the vote to expel Johnson failed.

Tennessee Republican lawmakers first introduced resolutions to expel the three Democratic lawmakers on Monday. The resolution accuses Johnson, Jones and Pearson of violating congressional rules by “knowingly and intentionally bring[ing] disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives through their individual and collective actions.”

Republicans claim the three lawmakers violated house rules by protesting within the chamber without first being recognized. Democrats condemned the move to expel the three lawmakers. Prior to the expulsion hearing, all three lawmakers were stripped of their committee assignments. Democrats warned Republicans against taking such an action, with Democratic Representative Bob Freeman stating, “This sets a very dangerous precedent.”

The resolution details how, on March 30, the three lawmakers gathered in the well and “began shouting without recognition.” Despite multiple calls for order, the three lawmakers persisted in their protests. Jones and Pearson used a bullhorn – after both claimed their microphones were turned off within the chamber – to boost their voices above those of other lawmakers. During that time, all three lawmakers called for the chamber to take action on rising gun violence in the state.

Jones commented on the resolution stating, “It’s morally insane that a week after a mass shooting took six lives in our community, House Republicans[‘] only response is to expel us for standing with our constituents to call for gun control.” Jones represents Nashville, where the shooting occurred. Pearson and Johnson represent Memphis and Knoxville respectively.

Hundreds of students gathered in Tennessee’s capitol on Thursday as the chamber held the expulsion hearings. Chants of “Free the Tennessee Three” rang throughout the building as lawmakers entered the house floor to debate the expulsion resolutions.

On Monday, approximately 7,000 students marched on the capitol protesting the legislature’s inaction on gun control legislation. The march, organized by a group advocating for an end to gun violence known as March for Our Lives, occurred a week after a shooter entered the Covenant School, a Nashville private Christian school. Inside were students spanning preschool through sixth grade, educators, administrators and staff members. The shooter fired 152 rounds once inside, killing three children and three adults.