Justin Jones before being expelled from TN house.

Tennessee Removes Youngest Lawmaker For Speaking Up About Gun Violence When It Wasn’t His Turn

The Tennessee Three.

The Tennessee House is in the process of removing three Democratic lawmakers representing roughly 192,306 people in the state. What are the charges against Representatives Justin Jones, Gloria Johnson, and Justin Pearson? What warrants the removal of a representative right after an election? Chanting alongside children asking not to die when it wasn’t their turn to speak.

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Following the March 27 shooting of six people (three children and three adults) at The Covenant School in Nashville, over 10,000 students, teachers, and activists descended into the galleries of the Tennessee House, demanding action in the form of stricter gun legislation. After the gallery chanted “fascist” to the point that the House couldn’t hold the meeting, these three representatives approached the microphone without permission and expressed support for the demonstrators. Now, Tennessee Republicans are removing them from office for “disorderly behavior.”

False charges to the three members

The charges in the House Resolutions (which are the same for each representative) are that they “moved in unison” and “yelled.” Piecing together the various angles of what happened in those few seconds online, this didn’t happen. They did come to the microphone at the same time. After speaking into the microphone with the protestor, the buzzer rang immediately, ending the session. With the meeting paused, Jones pulled out a bullhorn and left the building using it as the space was evacuated. Everything past the buzzer was not officially a part of the session.

No one denies that they broke the rules, with each charged admitting as much. The only denial is the fact that this was planned and that they “slapped” the podium and “yelled.” Other than the falsehoods in the resolutions to expel them (which are not available to the public because of how rushed this process is), the issue lies in the fact that those three people speaking up are now being replaced for a minor rule break against the will of the voters. Previous removals in Tennessee include bribery and slavery. None of these were breaking the rule of speaking out of turn.

Many members spoke out of turn today during the vote to remove the three members. However, papers weren’t drawn up because that happens sometimes, and they were just immediately corrected. Papers weren’t drawn up seven months ago after the DOJ charged two Tennessee Republicans state representatives of bribery, money laundering and conspiracy. During the evacuation process, another member was filmed pushing up against the 29-year-old representative. Jones has since stated that his phone was stolen in the altercation. Assault, battery, and theft are all breaking the rules, but that was not an issue as much as speaking out of turn. The House moved that this would be resolved after they voted to get rid of him.

A dark day for the electoral process

It was not the fact that we walked up to the well, but it was what we came up hear talking about.

– Pearson

Tennessee lawmakers voted 72 to 25 to remove Jones. They then moved to remove Pearson and Johnson.

The decision to oust these three representatives is a reminder that women and people of color are always expected to be gracious that they are even allowed in the halls of lawmaking. If we show an ounce of dissent, it’s villanized to the point of an expedited expulsion—an expulsion with no investigation and no trial.

UPDATE: Pearson survived the vote, making only Jones and Pearson expelled.

(featured image: screencap)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.