The expulsion of two young black *Tennessee legislators for protesting in the well of its chambers against gun violence was egregious and a further example of the Republicans abuse of power and movement toward autocracy. The fact that a white woman, who was as much a part of the action considered to bring “disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives,” was not expelled, was outright racist. When asked why she didn’t get expelled like her two black colleagues, Gloria Johnson stated: “Well, I think it’s pretty clear. I’m a 60-year-old white woman, and they are two young Black men.”
Before the expulsion both Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were the subject of attacks. Jones, who had been a well known an activist, stated during his speech before his expulsion said: “Basically I had a member on the floor call me an uppity negro. This is the behavior of our body.”
Johnson was taken to task for wearing a dashiki, traditional garb in Africa. Here’s a twitter post from the Tennessee Republicans
Referencing the bipartisan and unanimously approved rules for House decorum and dress attire is far from a racist attack. If you don’t like rules, perhaps you should explore a different career opportunity that’s main purpose is not creating them.
Racist dog-whistling has been a feature in the Republican Party since the 60’s, but that lip-sync has sailed, and has been replaced by the bullhorn. The irony of it all: these legislators were expelled for using a bullhorn to protest gun violence, which was simply an expression of their right to free speech; Republicans used their bullhorn to silence free speech.
All of this happened just 10 days after another tragic mass shooting-this time at the Covenant School in Nashville-which killed three 9 year olds and three adults.
Hundreds of students, parents, and teachers marched to the State Capitol on March 27 and have held demonstrations at the Capitol to demand action by the legislature to toughen gun laws. Last Thursday, Representatives Jones, Pearson, and Johnson — whose districts are in Nashville, Knoxville and Memphis, the state’s three largest cities — interrupted the legislature by chanting “No action, no peace” on the House floor. Legislative proceedings were forced to a halt.
Pearson and Jones were expelled for their peaceful protest of the tragic murder of six people who were going about their day at a school. The three legislators were showing their support for a community in grief. Pardon me, if they flouted the laws of decorum of the chamber by protesting the Republican majorities callousness and refusal to do anything about protecting the children. Republicans refusal to do anything is not only a flouting of decorum, but a flouting of human decency. In fact, the Republicans have recently passed laws (and are pushing for more) that actually make access to guns and Ar-15’s more accessible!)
In defending the expulsion of the two members, House Speaker Cameron Sexton compared the incident to Jan. 6: “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.” Did people die? Was there violence? Were they chanting: “Hang Cameron Sexton?”
Republican allegiance to the NRA is despicable; they are morally bankrupt. And what always stuns me is that a large majority of Americans, Republicans and gun owners included, want sensible gun laws. It is clear that as long as these people are in the majority we will never have them.
The nine year olds who were gunned down by a military type weapon were probably just in the middle of learning their multiplication tables. For extra credit children: Can you tell me the answer to this: Multiply the amount of mass shootings since January by the number killed at each shooting. Okay, now, put on your thinking caps and get to work. And by the way, remember our shooter drill as you never know…
One in 25 American 5-year-olds now won’t live to see 40, a death rate about four times as high as in other wealthy nations. Firearms account for almost half of the increase.
Let’s turn to Tennessee’s legacy of ousted legislators.
Six lawmakers were expelled from the Tennessee House in 1866, immediately after the Civil War, for seeking to prevent the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, which granted citizenship to formerly enslaved people. Since then, the House of Representatives in Tennessee has voted only twice to oust a lawmaker. Both votes were bipartisan: in 1980, after a sitting lawmaker was convicted of soliciting a bribe, and in 2016, after the House majority whip faced allegations of sexual misconduct.
Here’s Ms. Johnson during pleading her case before the vote to expel: “We have had admitted child molesters on the floor, we have had members that have peed in each other’s office chairs, we have someone who has illegally prescribed drugs to their cousin’s mistress, and nothing ever happened to those folks.”
Now we have two young outspoken black men expelled for “bullhorning.” Maybe the Republicans should be expelled for violating their right to free speech?
Certainly protesting in support of your constituency is as egregious as committing multiple acts of sexual misconduct or taking bribes. If you recall, John Lewis staged a protest against gun violence inside the Capitol building and he and other members of congress weren’t expelled. He was making what he referred to as “good trouble.”
Here’s who weren’t expelled:
In 2019, Rep David Byrd faced accusations of sexual misconduct after multiple women claimed he assaulted them when he was their high school basketball coach. There is actually a recording of him admitting this to one of the women he assaulted. Democrats, including Johnson, wanted to take a vote to remove Byrd. Guess what? He was never removed. He was then asked by the Governor not to run for re-election and he did anyway and won. What’s with these Republicans who support men who sexually assault women (Byrs finally resigned as a result of becoming very ill from Covid)?
And no story is complete without a tale of “pee.” The Majority Whip, Rick Till’s chair was peed on after it was discovered that he was involved with an anonymous Twitter account disparaging a fellow Republican legislator. To this date they have yet to identify the “man of the yellow stain” but chances are, when they do, they will decide that the peeing was the result of a bladder infection and he will be forced to go to a Urologist.
“The perpetrator of “Peegate” is still at large, but if we don’t do something about the Republicans pissing all over our democracy we all will find ourselves in a wet, stinky mess.
*Just last night, to the chagrin of the Republicans who expelled them, the Nashville City Council voted unanimously to reinstate Justin Jones. The Memphis City Council is expected to do the same for Justin Pearson in the next few days. These are temporary reinstatements as there will have to be an actual election for the seats which hopefully the two Justins will win. All I can say is power to the people who rose up to their defense. And to the two Justins: Here’s to “good trouble” and make noise!