The Tennessee State GOP pulled off their first partisan legislative expulsion on Thursday with the kind of racist flourish this country has now come to expect from the Guns Over People party.
Republicans currently control the Tennessee House by an unusually wide margin, with 75 members to the Democrats’ 22 – and now there are two newly vacant seats on the Blue side.
The Red pro-gun caucus voted to remove three state Democrats–two Black men and one White woman–from the body for leading a peaceful protest inside the State House last week after the Nashville Covenant School shooting.
Guess who got to stay? You get three guesses, but only the white one counts.
“The Tennessee Three”–Reps. Justin Jones (who is Black-Filipino), Justin Pearson (who is Black), and Gloria Johnson (who is not Black)–each had a chance to plead their cases during a 7-hour public hearing regarding their expulsion.
“We called for you all to ban assault weapons and you respond with an assault on democracy,” Justin Jones said during his compelling speech.
But despite their passionate arguments defending their Constitutionally-given First Amendment rights to Free Speech and Free Assembly, the two Black men received enough votes to expel them, while Johnson didn’t.
The final vote over rules violations for Jones split along party lines 72-25, while the vote in Pearson’s case was 69-26. Johnson’s vote was 65-30. Expulsion from the House requires a two-thirds majority of the total membership.
After surviving her vote, Johnson was asked why there was a difference in the outcomes. “It might have to do with the color of our skin,” she said.
“We need to fight for democracy in the state of Tennessee,” Justin Pearson told MSNBC after his expulsion.
Political historian David Magnusson tweeted about the unprecedented votes by linking to a similar case from 1966 which established an elected official’s First Amendment right to remain seated while freely sharing their personal opinions.
“Regarding the abhorrence that took place In Tennessee yesterday, please feel free to peruse Bond v. Floyd, 385 U.S. 116 (1966),” Magnusson wrote.
President Joe Biden made it clear that he wouldn’t tolerate any fascism in the United States of America, tweeting his support for the Tennessee Three.
“Three kids and three officials gunned down in yet another mass shooting,” the President’s tweet reads. “And what are GOP officials focused on? Punishing lawmakers who joined thousands of peaceful protesters calling for action. It’s shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent.”
Republican Fascism has officially arrived in America and it’s up to us to stop it from spreading any further.
Twitter users were adding their voices to the President’s on Friday as #TheJustins were trending.
Three kids and three officials gunned down in yet another mass shooting.
And what are GOP officials focused on?
Punishing lawmakers who joined thousands of peaceful protesters calling for action.
It's shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent. https://t.co/NB9gSdFI9h
— President Biden (@POTUS) April 6, 2023
Tennessee State Rep. Justin Pearson speaks after vote to expel him from the House over participating in gun protests: “Our lives are at stake. And we're going to fight for our lives, just like they're fighting for the NRA." #TenneseeThree
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) April 7, 2023
ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING: Reps Justin Pearson and Justin Jones, who are black, have been expelled from the Tennessee House for protesting against gun violence. Rep Gloria Johnson, a white women, was allowed to keep her seat. This abuse of power and racism by the GOP will not be… pic.twitter.com/IrI3Kf5rqv
— 💙Brittney💙 (@AZ_Brittney) April 7, 2023
These are not REPUBLICANS punishing Memphis & Nashville, these are RACISTS trying to make Black people their NEGROES .
John Lewis protested in Congress & kept his seat. #JustinJones & #JustinPearson did the same, but racist Republican Tennessee state legislators expelled them. pic.twitter.com/dZQsW7SXGB
— Rev. & Prof. Cornell William Brooks (@CornellWBrooks) April 7, 2023
We are marching into fascism with a supermajority that has proven that absolute power corrupts absolutely—@VoteGloriaJ #TenneseeThree pic.twitter.com/BCBfIF6pdx
— Lesley Abravanel (@lesleyabravanel) April 7, 2023
*THIS IS AN OPINION COLUMN THAT SOLELY REPRESENTS THE OPINIONS OF TARA DUBLIN AND IS PROTECTED BY THE FIRST AMENDMENT.*
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