3 Representatives face expulsion after gun control rally

Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton considered the lawmakers’ actions out of order and said they tried to ‘incite riots.’
WSMV's Danielle Jackson reports.
Published: Apr. 3, 2023 at 6:24 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 4, 2023 at 6:19 AM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Three state representatives were removed from their committees after they participated in last week’s gun control rallies at the Tennessee State Capitol and led a protest on the House floor, according to Speaker of the House of Representatives Cameron Sexton.

House resolutions were filed on Monday to expel Reps. Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones, and Justin Pearson from the House. This came after House Speaker stripped all three of their committee and subcommittee seats, according to Ken Jobe, the House Democratic Caucus press secretary.

The House voted to consider the resolutions to expel the representatives during Thursday’s session as part of the Unfinished Business portion of the calendar.

Sexton said he stripped them of their committees after they led a protest on the House floor on Thursday morning with a bullhorn. The lawmakers also had their badges and garage passes deactivated after the event.

They were told they broke a House rule but are not sure which one.

“Our mics were cut off throughout the week whenever we were trying to bring up the issue of gun violence,” Jones, D-Nashville, said. “When I went outside to support, the speaker cut off my voting machine. The first time I’ve ever seen that happen.”

Jones added that as the Tennessee House Republicans pushed forward to schedule the vote on the expulsion, Speaker Sexton ordered the gallery to be cleared as the crowd chanted “fascists.”

Jones also claimed that Rep. Lafferty (R-Knox) pushed him and grabbed his phone.

“How do we not stand up and fight for those kids who have folks out there begging us to do something,” Johnson, D-Knoxville, said. “We were not addressing them. We were not talking to them. We were not talking about their issue. We were talking about a resolution to build a border wall.”

Johnson, Pearson and Jones all spoke to WSMV4′s Danielle Jackson.

Johnson claimed they committed no crime.

“We walked to the well to speak to the people who were begging us to protect them,” Johnson said. “Article two of the state constitution states that lawmakers have a right to protest against and decent from any legislation that’s injurious to the people and have their protest marked in the journal of the house’s that’s what we were doing.”

Pearson told us that they were exercising his First Amendment rights as legislators.

“People acknowledging their First Amendment in this state is what being sought of being expelled,” Pearson said. “This is wrong. This is not a democracy; this is what a dictatorship and oligarchy...not here in the state of Tennessee, not in the United States of America.”

Speaker Sexton described the three lawmakers’ actions as worthy of consequences during a radio show last Thursday:

The Tennessee House Democratic Caucus and the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators released statements on the expulsion resolutions on Monday night.

The House Democratic Caucus released the following statement:

“The Tennessee House Democratic Caucus stands firmly united with its members, Reps. Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson. The Democratic Caucus has unanimously, formally voted to oppose the baseless resolutions for expulsion and will zealously oppose them should they come up for a vote on the House floor.”

The Tennessee Black Caucus stated their support for Reps. Jones, Pearson and Johnson in the following statement:

WSMV4 has reached out to the House Republican Caucus for a statement as well too but has not received word yet.

What’s Next?

If the representatives are expelled, county officials could appoint someone to fill their seat until a special election could be held. That’s unlikely, though, according to Jobe. He said by the time that a decision could be made by an elected body, the legislative session would likely be over for the year. The expelled representatives could also run in the special election, and if they win, they could return.