Republicans Are Trying to Kick Dems Out of Office for Protesting Gun Violence

Three Tennessee lawmakers joined a student protest days after a mass shooting at a Nashville school. One Republican compared the protest to Jan. 6.
Students walked out of area schools to gather at the Tennessee State Capitol building in protest to demand action for gun reform laws in the state on April 3, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Seth Herald/Getty Images)

Tennessee’s ruling Republican Party appears set to expel three Democratic legislators from office as retribution for joining massive protests for gun reform following last week’s tragic school shooting in Nashville.

Republicans filed and quickly passed motions Monday to expel Democratic Reps. Justin Jones, Gloria Johnson, and Justin Pearson, claiming that when they joined the protest last week on the House floor they “did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives through their individual and collective actions.” The motion passed overwhelmingly on a party-line vote, as protesters at the Capitol chanted “Fascists!” 


On March 30, three days after a mass shooter killed six people at Nashville private school, Jones, Johnson, and Pearson joined protesters chanting for gun reform while on the floor of the House, using a megaphone. 

“We occupied the House floor today after repeatedly being silenced from talking about the crisis of mass shootings,” Jones, who represents a district in Nashville, said in a tweet that day. “We could not go about business as usual as thousands were protesting outside demanding action.”

The final vote on expulsion is set for Thursday. Jones, Johnson, and Pearson will have the opportunity to defend themselves, but with a supermajority, there’s little that can be done to stop the Republicans from kicking them out of office, according to the Tennessean. 

“We’ll not be intimidated. THE PEOPLE are demanding we act to stop kids from being murdered in school,” Jones tweeted Monday night, along with a photo of the resolution. 


“A week after six people were slaughtered in a Tennessee school shooting, House Republicans are taking action,” Johnson tweeted Monday night. “Not to stop gun violence. But to silence voices who are calling for reform. We will not be silent.”

Republican leaders have said the three House Democrats are being punished for speaking out of order and “disorderly behavior,” and compared last week’s protests to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, despite zero people being injured. On Monday, Jones and Johnson were removed from their committee assignments (Pearson does not sit on any committees). 

Jones, a Black Democrat from Nashville, told reporters Monday that Republicans were “trying to make an example of us and called it a “political lynching.” Johnson raised several examples of egregious conduct by Republicans in recent years which didn’t result in expulsion. 

“We had a child molester on the floor for years, they helped him get reelected and did nothing to expel him, Johnson told the Tennessean. “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,” Johnson said. (Only two people have been expelled from the Tennessee House since the end of the Civil War, according to the Tennessean; the most recent was GOP Rep. Jeremy Durham in 2016, for sexual misconduct.)  

The three lawmakers have also had their access to some areas of the Capitol restricted, including the legislative office building and parking garage. Johnson told the Tennessean that the restrictions prevented her from getting her mobility scooter, which was inside the building. 

On Monday night, as protesters filled the gallery as Republicans voted in favor of expelling the three Democrats, Jones accused Republican Rep. Justin Lafferty—who two years ago argued in defense of the Three-Fifths Compromise on the same House floor—of pushing him and grabbing his phone. 

Video posted by Jones shows Lafferty turning towards Jones, the camera shaking, and someone saying, “Get your hand off of me.”

Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton, a Republican, suggested last week that the protests—largely led by high school students and other young people who’ve been subjected to the threat of mass gun violence their entire lives—were worse than the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S Capitol. 

“Two of the members, Reps. Jones and Johnson, have been very vocal about Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C., about what that was,” Sexton told a Knoxville radio station. “What they did today was at least equivalent, maybe worse, depending on how you look at it, of doing an insurrection in the Capitol.”

Sexton said in a Monday tweet thread that he was talking about the Democratic lawmakers, not the “peaceful protesters” at the Capitol. 

“We have heard the voices of the students, the protestors, and individuals from across the state,” Sexton said Monday. “We cannot allow the actions of the three members to distract us from protecting our children. We will get through this together, and it will require talking about all solutions.”

Tennessee Republicans have so far offered no indication they’ll reform gun laws. Instead, Gov. Bill Lee proposed a budget Monday that includes $140 million to increase armed security at schools, according to the Tennessean.

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