Two Tennessee House Representatives fight back against injustice
The Concordia Courier
By Morgan McGrath | 4/21/2023
Tennessee State Representative, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, both Democrats, were expelled from the legislature, days after taking the floor at the Tennessee State Capitol to advocate for gun control and discuss the impact of gun violence.
On March 27, a deadly shooting occurred in Nashville, Tennessee at a private Christian school, teaching children as young as kindergarten. Six were killed in the 164th mass shooting America has had just this year.
During a session of the Tennessee House of Representatives some days following the shooting, on April 10, protestors entered the Tennessee capitol. Following the entry, Pearson, Jones and Rep. Gloria Johnson led protests in the galleries in several chants calling for gun reform, according to local newspaper of record, The Tennessean.
Just days after the lawmakers took the stand, Republican representatives called for their expulsion from the chamber, marking the first time the Tennessee Legislature called for expulsion since 2016, when then-Rep. Jeremy Durham was expelled for sexual misconduct.
Some argued that the actions taken by Republicans violated the council members rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, and others claimed that the expulsions may have been racially discriminatory, due to the fact that Johnson, a white woman, was not expelled while young Black officials Johnson and Pearson were.
Both Jones and Pearson spoke out against their accusations and fought back for their reputations and positions as elected officials. The community and other council members showed their disagreement and disbelief for what had happened. People were angered by Tennessee’s legislature after Jones and Pearson were removed from their positions.
“You are seeking to expel District 86’s representation in this House, in a country that was built on a protest, in a country built on people who speak out of turn, who spoke out of turn, who fought out of turn to build a nation. I come from a long line of people who have resisted,” said Pearson, via Rollcall.com.
“How can you bring disorder to a House that is out of order, where the speaker refuses to let representatives elected to speak for their people even be heard?” Jones told Rollcall.
Some Republicans in the chamber attempted to liken the incident to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, including House Speaker Cameron Sexton, claiming that the Democrat Reps were attempting to “cause an insurrection on the House floor.”
“So we were in between bills, and Rep. Justin Jones, Rep. Justin Pearson, and Rep. Gloria Johnson came to the well,” Sexton said during a radio interview. “We had protestors that had been vocal in the balcony. We had given them warnings. They were out in front of the chamber, being very vocal, yelling and screaming, which we are used to, at one point during session, to come up out of order and try to take over the House floor. Started pulling out a megaphone and shouting at members, and incite riots or violence. You had people outside the chamber who rushed the state troopers to try and get inside the chamber. They weren’t successful. So now we have multiple violations by those three.”
The shooting that sparked the protest, as well as the reaction from the Tennessee legislature, has opened up conversations across the nation.
The Tennessee incident brought many topics in the national political and social conversation into sharp focus including racism, agism and, of course, gun control. “I think we need to focus on mental illness and watching how these sick people move in our daily lives. It's not about guns, a gun can’t get up and kill someone, it takes a sick individual to pick that gun up and go shoot kids,” said Concordia junior Noah Millard.
Both Pearson and Jones fought to have their positions in the Tennessee legislature returned, and both were later reinstated.
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