NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – Two Democrats, including Memphis’ Justin J. Pearson, were ejected from the Tennessee House of Representatives on Thursday.
Meanwhile, three Democratic Representatives staged their own protest on the House floor.
Pearson may be seen in the video with a bullhorn. The House protest was also attended by Justin Jones of Nashville, who was also ejected, and Gloria Johnson of Knoxville.
“Initially, lawmakers voted to expel Jones. The vote to eject Gloria Johnson, which required two-thirds of the votes in order to pass, was defeated by a single vote.”
Finally, the matter was put to Pearson, who was expelled from the House of Representatives on a 69-26 vote.
All of this occurred after more than ten hours of chanting in the Capitol’s hallways.
Jones was the first to be heard.
“It’s evident that he wants to be sent out. That’s why he calls you all a disgraceful house. During the hearing, Republican Gino Bulso of Brentwood questioned, “We all saw the video of what he did?”
“What he was essentially saying was that Justin is an uppity Negro,” Jones answered. How could he point at the speaker and accuse him of lying? A lie? … How could he stand before this body and refuse to bow?”
Jones was the first to be kicked out.
It was then Johnson’s time. The Republican House majority received just 65 votes, falling short of the 66 required.
Pearson’s time came next.
Pearson drew a sizable throng of Memphis supporters in both galleries, but it was unable to overcome the 69 votes in favor of expulsion. People in the protesting crowds and passageways expressed disbelief.
“Hearing that because some of our representatives dared to speak to the needs of the people rather than the GOP agenda they’re attempting to push, they’re going to expel them for that, for a simple decorum rule?” “I have to say it: it’s the end of democracy,” one lady declared.
Despite the ruling, Pearson has stated that he would seek for the seat again.
“I’m returning because this institution needs to change.” The injustices that are occurring here must be addressed. And I’ll keep fighting. And my family will continue to work to make this the place it should be, rather than the place it is now,” he stated only minutes after the final vote.
The judgment sparked outrage, with President Biden calling it “shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent.” “Three children and three officials were gunned down in yet another mass shooting,” he continued. And what are GOP politicians concentrating on? Punishing legislators who joined thousands of nonviolent demonstrators in demanding action.”
The following statement was given by Congressman Steve Cohen, D-Memphis:
“As a former state senator and current member of Congress, I understand that certain rules of decorum are required for conducting public business in our state legislature.” However, I see today’s expulsion votes as a provocative and inappropriate reaction to a violation of House rules precipitated by the emotions produced by last week’s Covenant School tragedy.
I was relieved to see the attempt to remove Representative Johnson fail. I wish calmer heads had prevailed and averted the disenfranchisement of Memphis and Nashville residents caused by the expulsions, in addition to the additional expenditure state taxpayers will now bear in arranging primary and general elections.
The debate about how to respond to gun violence is an important element of the democratic process. The votes today were an embarrassment to a key democratic institution.”
The Republican-led legislature voted to oust the representatives on Thursday, April 6, 2023, after an initial decision to press forward with expulsion on Tuesday.
Pearson stated in a letter to every member of the Tennessee House, “I did not follow decorum (and) I take full responsibility.”
“If this House decides to expel me for exercising our sacred first amendment right to help elevate the voices in our community who want to see us at work to prevent gun violence,” Pearson continued. We must always defend what we feel is good and just. More gun violence must be avoided.”
House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, told FOX13, “There are different reactions and consequences for different things.” This is about three individuals doing something that has never happened in the home.”
Pearson, who had just been in the House since gaining election in January 2023, is now the second Memphis politician to be booted out in 14 months, following Katrina Robinson’s removal from the state senate following a federal wire fraud probe.
The horrific shooting in Nashville that provoked the Capitol protest sparked rallies at schools around the country, including Memphis.
A day before the House’s expulsion vote, students at Crosstown High School in Memphis walked out of class at noon to protest gun legislation.
It is now up to the Nashville City Council and Shelby County Commission to fill the two now-vacant seats until a special election is held.
On Thursday night, Shelby County Commission Chairman Mickell Lowery stated that commissioners want to nominate Pearson’s replacement “as soon as possible.”