Democratic Rep. Justin Jones wears a white suit and raises his fist in the air, looking up towards protesters above him in the State Capitol.

Tennessee Democrats Expelled From Congress for Joining Protests Against the Continued Murder of Children

Not even two weeks ago, Americans faced another tragic school shooting, this time at an elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee. Predictably, coverage hit a peak and then gave way to other things, some productive, some not. But the students of our country—the ones who have had to adapt to these very modern, uncertain fears in ways previous generations never had to—took decisive action in the form of walkouts, earlier this week. These protests took to the streets and headed to the Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville, advocating for increased gun control.

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Once there, three Democratic House lawmakers joined these students in their protests: Representatives Justin Jones, Gloria Johnson, and Justin Pearson. They did this for the simple reason that they are human beings who want to keep our kids safe when time and time again, loose gun legislation has proved it cannot do so. And what did the TN GOP do? It removed them from their respective committee assignments and introduced legislation to expel them from Congress entirely. The votes on those bills were held yesterday, Thursday, April 6.

To be very, very clear, the reasons for this expulsion hinge around the “Tennessee Three’s'” involvement in protests that were designed to push SOLELY for the protection of our children and school workers. There is nothing duplicitous here, nothing remotely worth examining other than the very human desire to protect innocent lives. In attempting to expel them, the TN GOP is making it clear that they value abstract legislative values over the very real, very threat that schoolchildren face in our country. These are the same kinds of people who make a big deal out of imaginary threats, like drag queens reading to schoolchildren, and it’s infuriating that they have as much power as they do.

Jones, the youngest member of the House, has been expelled, in a bewildering 72 Y to 25 N vote. Pearson was also expelled by a vote of 69-26, with only Johnson—a white woman among two young Black men—evading expulsion by a single vote, at 65-30.

The voters alleged that Jones was aggressive in his demeanor, when in fact he was admirably collected and direct; when it came time to whip out the bullhorn, he brought it outside, so as not to impede the House proceedings. The charges against Jones are being exaggerated and fabricated purely because he didn’t stand in line.

At the point where even such civil forms of dissent are punished, we have to acknowledge that “democracy” has been thrown out the window, and there is no sense to be had in these decisions unless your logic is explicitly fascist in intent.

Republicans in Tennessee dedicated nearly the entire day yesterday to these votes. (They were each held separately and each involved multiple hours of debate.) Yet they refuse to dedicate any time at all to the actual issue of gun violence. We’ve seen legislators turn a blind eye to anything not having to immediately do with them, which essentially makes their legislative roles entirely redundant. And I think this is something many still struggle with, the realization that many longstanding lawmakers could truly give a shit about the people their actions and decisions affect.

After the Covenant shooting, who took to the streets? Who screamed, howled, gathered in crowds, and mourned those who would never get to grow up? Who pressured our government to act? It was, by and large, thousands upon thousands of other students, teachers, and community members who are tired of senseless tragedy. And it shouldn’t have to rest solely on the shoulders of the American people, who can only do so much. Lawmakers can do great things if they so choose, and the Tennessee Three decided on that day to make a choice that represented the people. And they were punished for it.

(featured image: Seth Herald/Getty Images)

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Madeline Carpou
Madeline (she/her) is a staff writer with a focus on AANHPI and mixed-race representation. She enjoys covering a wide variety of topics, but her primary beats are music and gaming. Her journey into digital media began in college, primarily regarding audio: in 2018, she started producing her own music, which helped her secure a radio show and co-produce a local history podcast through 2019 and 2020. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz summa cum laude, her focus shifted to digital writing, where she's happy to say her History degree has certainly come in handy! When she's not working, she enjoys taking long walks, playing the guitar, and writing her own little stories (which may or may not ever see the light of day).

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