Tennessee expulsion vote: State House could oust Democratic lawmakers after gun violence protest


(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — The Republican-controlled Tennessee state House of Representatives convened on Thursday to vote on ousting three Democratic lawmakers, which, if successful, would mark the first partisan expulsion in the state’s modern history.

The legislative session was underway as of Thursday afternoon but the expulsion vote hadn’t yet started.

Protesters gathered both inside — in the gallery, where they were told to remain silent — and in large groups outside, in apparent support of the three Democratic lawmakers.

Reps. Justin Jones, Gloria Johnson and Justin J. Pearson are the three facing expulsion resolutions for allegedly violating the chamber’s rules of decorum by participating in a gun control protest at the state Capitol last week. The demonstration came in the wake of the deadly Covenant School shooting in Nashville on March 27, where a former student fatally shot three children and three adults, police have said.

When protesters crowded the state House and gallery hallways last week, calling for stricter gun laws, only one Democratic lawmaker was granted permission to address them.

Others, particularly young progressives like freshman Reps. Pearson and Jones, also wanted to speak but were prohibited by Republican leadership.

So, during a recess, the duo, along with Johnson, used the well of the House chambers to demand action. With their mics shut off, they brought a megaphone, leading chants.

Days later, Tennessee’s Republican Reps. Bud Hulsey, Gino Bulso and Andrew Farmer sponsored the expulsion resolutions Monday. They argued the Democratic lawmakers “did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives through their individual and collective actions.”

Hulsey, Bulso and Farmer did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Republican state lawmakers including Speaker Cameron Sexton have accused the trio of attempting to incite an insurrection, even likening their actions to the violent Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, according to ABC affiliate WKRN.

Since the Civil War, the Tennessee state House has voted only twice to expel a member.

As of Thursday, the trio of Democrats said they have already lost ID access to the state Capitol and been stripped of any committee assignments.

But Pearson and Johnson told ABC News, no matter the results of the expulsion vote, they will remain undeterred in fighting for their constituents.

“If we are expelled on Thursday, you can expect the protest to continue the resistance to build, and the advocacy for our communities and for the people that we care about,” said Pearson.

“This is not going to stop me in the least,” Johnson added.

ABC News’ Sarah Beth Guevara contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.