Tennessee Republicans introduced resolutions Monday evening to expel three Democratic members from the state House after they participated in a protest against lax gun laws from the floor of the chamber last week in the wake of the Nashville school shooting.
The move to expel the three Democrats brought fiery protests to the state Capitol Monday night.
Shouts and chants broke out in the House gallery when State House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R) called for a vote on the resolution to expel one of the lawmakers. Protestors in the gallery chanted “fascists! fascists!” and waved signs that read “JUSTICE FOR THE TENNESSEE THREE.” Meanwhile, a Republican and Democratic lawmaker had what appeared to be a minor physical confrontation on the floor.
In response to the protests, Sexton called for state troopers to clear the House galleries.
The GOP-led resolutions to expel the three Democrats come days after Reps. Gloria Johnson of Knoxville, Justin Jones of Nashville and Justin Pearson of Memphis joined a protest on Thursday in response to the Nashville school shooting that left six people — three children and three school staff members — dead.
Hundreds of protesters, mostly children and parents holding signs and chanting, packed the Capitol building last week, with demonstrations spilling into the House gallery. As their chants echoed throughout the building, the three Democrats cheered on the protestors from the front of the House chamber with a bullhorn.
Since the Thursday protest, House leadership has made bad faith and over-the-top comparisons, likening the trio’s behavior to the Jan. 6 “insurrection” and threatening to punish the lawmakers for participating. Democrats have already slammed Sexton and other Republicans for conflating a peaceful protest over gun laws in the state House with a violent and deadly attempted coup.
“You show me the broken windows, you show me anyone who went into the speaker’s office and put their chair up on his desk and trashed his office, you show me where a noose was hanging anywhere on the legislative plaza,” Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons told the local WPLN News.
On Monday GOP leaders introduced resolutions to seek the expulsion of Johnson, Jones and Pearson.
State Republicans claim the lawmakers in question “did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives through their individual and collective actions.”
“We’re going to push back, and we’re gonna fight this because it’s unprecedented and utterly ridiculous,” Johnson said, according to The Tennessean.
“We had a child molester on the floor for years, they helped him get reelected and did nothing to expel him,” he added. “We’ve had members pee in each other’s chairs. We’ve had members illegally prescribe drugs to their cousin-mistress, and nothing happened. But talk on the floor without permission, and you’ll get expelled.”
Following the Thursday demonstration, the three Democrats were stripped of their committee assignments and their access to the legislative office building and member’s parking garage was restricted.
The House Democratic Caucus released a statement after the Monday votes, emphasizing that the caucus “stands firmly united” with its members.
“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 statement read.
The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators also issued a statement condemning the resolutions.
“This political retribution is unconstitutional and, in this moment, morally bankrupt,” the statement read. “The people who elected us are calling for meaningful action to end gun violence and the people have a right to be heard through their duly elected representatives.”
The votes to effectively expel the three members is scheduled for Thursday.