Tennessee Republicans Expel Two Democratic Lawmakers Who Joined Gun Control Rally

George Walker IV/AP

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.Tennessee’s House of Representatives on Thursday expelled two Democratic members who participated in a gun control protest following the mass shooting at a Nashville grade school. Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson have been stripped of their titles and legislative responsibilities, an extraordinary development in the GOP-led effort to punish him for his involvement in the demonstration. A vote to oust Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson narrowly failed.
It was unclear why Johnson, who is white, was allowed to stay in office while two of her Black colleagues were expelled, but Johnson suggested that “it might have to do with the color of our skin.”

Reporter asks Rep. Gloria Johnson why she thinks there was a difference between her outcome and Rep. Justin Jones
Rep Johnson: “I’ll answer your question; it might have to do with the color of our skin.” pic.twitter.com/8fyIRRqP0S
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) April 6, 2023

“This awakened to the world that there is no democracy in Tennessee and that today’s vote is a very dangerous precedent for the nation,” Jones told Mother Jones Creator in Residence Garrison Hayes moments after his expulsion. “In a week after a mass shooting, it is so outrageous that the first reaction of this body is to expel me rather than to pass common sense gun laws.”

.@garrison_hayes is the first reporter on scene to interview @brotherjones_ just moments after his expulsion from the Tennessee House: pic.twitter.com/bykfja8KXb
— Mother Jones (@MotherJones) April 6, 2023

As many have noted, only two Tennessee state representatives had previously been expelled since the Civil War.
“I feel like North Korea has more democracy than we do in the state of Tennessee,” Johnson told Mother Jones in an exclusive sit-down interview on Wednesday, “and it’s terrifying to me that we’re in this march to fascism. And it seems like the Tennessee supermajority is leading the charge.” 
The 72-25 vote to expel Jones comes days after the deadly mass shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School, where a shooter used an AR-15 rifle to kill six people, including three nine-year-old children. In the wake of the shooting, Johnson, Jones, and Pearson led chants from the House chamber floor to demand action on gun control. 
Johnson, who survived a school shooting in 2008, told Mother Jones’ Garrison Hayes: “I don’t want that to happen to anyone else ever again. We can absolutely do something. We are the only country that has this situation. Why are we ignoring this?”

MORE: “When you silence those voices, it’s going to mean more lives.” @VoteGloriaJ recounts living through a school shooting herself in this powerful interview with @garrison_hayes.
“We can absolutely do something. We are the only country that has this situation.” pic.twitter.com/D0EXXFOvGZ
— Mother Jones (@MotherJones) April 6, 2023

After the gun control demonstration, House Speaker Cameron Sexton, a Republican, compared their actions to the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6 and warned that the legislators involved would face “consequences.” Hayes, a video journalist and Nashville resident, was on the scene at the Capitol during the vote. You can check out his in-person interviews and play-by-play of the day’s events here. 

.@garrison_hayes is in the Tennessee state house right now to witness the possible expulsion (for alleged “disorderly behavior”) of 3 Democratic reps. over their support for gun reform protests in the wake of the Nashville school shooting. He’ll be updating you in this thread: pic.twitter.com/KFsYFtwvae
— Mother Jones (@MotherJones) April 6, 2023