Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R) is threatening to expel three Democratic members of the state House after they acknowledged and supported a public protest over lax gun laws and the deadly school shooting at Covenant School, a Christian elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee. The shooting took place one week ago today, March 27th. The shooter shot and killed three children and three adults before being killed in a firefight with police officers. Thousands descended on the capitol building three days later demanding greater restrictions on firearms.
That protest is at the center of plans to expel the three members.
The protests included no injuries, no property damage and no arrests. But when protestors entered the House gallery three members — Reps. Gloria Johnson, D-Knox, Justin Pearson, D-Memphis, and Justin Jones, D-Nashville — stood up and chanted with the demonstrators. Johnson told reporters on Monday that she and her colleagues were “tired of our voice not being heard.”
“We decided between bills, we are going to walk up, we’re going to acknowledge the people outside surrounding this building, in the rotunda, and we’re going to speak to their issue and tell them that we are with them,” she said.
During the protest Sexton warned the three lawmakers not to acknowledge the protestors but to stick to the discussion of the legislation at hand. They persisted.
Two of three lawmakers have already been stripped of their committee assignments. The third wasn’t seated on any committees. Sexton, the speaker, has justified the removal of committee on assignments and possible expulsion from the assembly by comparing the protest to the Jan. 6th, 2021, insurrection on riot on Capitol Hill which sought to overturn the results of the 2020 election, resulted in five deaths, extensive property damage and hundreds of arrests and prosecutions.
“Two of the members; Representative Jones and Representative Johnson, have been very vocal about Jan. 6 and Washington, D.C., about what that was,” Sexton told reporters. “What they did today was equivalent, at least equivalent, maybe worse depending on how you look at it, to doing an insurrection in the State Capitol.”
Sexton warned that possible punishment could range from removal from committees, censure to expulsion. A vote on expelling the three members from office will be held later this week.