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Two Black lawmakers of the “Tennessee Three” were expelled from the Tennessee State Legislature while their White counterpart survived the vote Thursday.
It’s been an unprecedented week in the Tennessee State Capitol that started with thousands of students protesting for stricter gun laws and ended with two of the state’s youngest Black legislators being expelled.
The protest was in response to the school shooting at Covenant Presbyterian School in Nashville that left three children, three adults, and the shooter dead.
Last Thursday, thousands of students from across Tennessee protested at the State Capitol demanding stricter gun laws. Those students were joined by former Representative Justin Jones (D), former Representative Justin J. Pearson (D), and Representative Gloria Johnson (D).
The three led chants of “no action, no peace,” with students from the gallery joining. Republican House leadership at the Capitol deliberated about expelling the three that day but decided against it.
Tennessee Republicans Vote to Expel Black Legislators
On Thursday, Tennessee’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to expel the two Black lawmakers, Jones and Pearson, for leading a gun reform protest but failed to expel Johnson.
The vote over rules violations for Jones split along party lines 72-25, while the vote in Pearson’s case was 69-26. Johnson’s vote was 65-30. Expulsion from the House requires a two-thirds majority of the total membership.
“I was fighting for your children and your grandchildren too,” former Rep. Jones told Republican lawmakers as they deliberated his expulsion.
“Something is wrong with the way this house is operating,” former Rep. Pearson said before his expulsion vote. “This body is hurting people.”
Rep. Johnson was the lone member of the “Tennessee Three” to survive the expulsion vote. Asked by CNN afterwards why she thought she survived the vote, her answer was simple.
“I think it’s pretty clear. I’m a 60-year-old White woman, and they’re two young Black men,” Rep. Johnson said.
News of the expulsions reverberated far and quickly through the political world. By Thursday night, former President Obama as well as President Biden released separate statements regarding the Tennessee Republican’s actions.
Friday morning, it was announced that Vice President Kamala Harris would be making a surprise visit to Nashville to meet with the “Tennessee Three”.
“Six people, including three children, were killed last week in a school shooting in Nashville,” VP Harris said in a tweet. “How did Republican lawmakers in Tennessee respond? By expelling their colleagues who stood with Tennesseans and said enough is enough. This is undemocratic and dangerous.”