Democratic state Rep. Justin Jones

Democratic state Rep. Justin Jones enters the state House chamber as protesters chant demanding action on gun control at the Tennessee State Capitol on April 3, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee.

(Photo: Seth Herald/Getty Images)

Nearly 270 State Lawmakers Denounce 'Anti-Democratic' Expulsion Effort by Tennessee GOP

"There is nothing 'disorderly' about courageously standing in solidarity with the people we are elected to serve, in opposition to the gun lobby that continues to profiteer off of an epidemic they have fueled," reads a letter signed by 267 lawmakers.

Lawmakers from 35 states on Thursday signed a letter condemning the Tennessee Republican Party as it prepared to expel three Democratic representatives who joined a protest demanding gun control legislation in the State Capitol, with the letter accusing the state GOP of racist and "anti-democratic" conduct.

Tennessee Reps. Gloria Johnson (D-13), Justin Jones (D-52), and Justin Pearson (D-86) joined Nashville students and their supporters on Monday as they poured into the Capitol building, demanding that lawmakers ban weapons like the ones used in a mass shooting at a Christian school in the city last week, which killed three children and three adults, and pass other broadly popular gun control legislation.

Republicans have accused the three Democrats of bringing "disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives" by speaking without recognition during a protest on the chamber's floor last week, a technical violation of the House rules, and of taking part in an "insurrection."

"There is nothing 'disorderly' about courageously standing in solidarity with the people we are elected to serve, in opposition to the gun lobby that continues to profiteer off of an epidemic they have fueled," reads the letter. "The Tennessee State Capitol is the people's house, and Representatives Justin Jones, Justin Pearson, and Gloria Johnson exemplified leadership on the House floor this week by standing up for what's right. Any attempts to silence these elected leaders for exercising their constitutional right to protest are anti-democratic."

The Republicans passed three resolutions to hold votes on expelling the lawmakers on Monday, with each passing 72-23 on a party line vote. The vote on expulsion is expected to take place Thursday.

The letter, organized by the State Innovation Exchange (SiX), accused the GOP of exemplifying the "robust and racist connection between fighting against gun safety and dismantling our democracy." Pearson and Jones are Black, and the lawmakers pointed out that people of color are disproportionately impacted by gun violence in the United States.

"Let's be clear, the vote to expel Reps. Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones, and Justin Pearson is just another anti-democratic effort to silence the American people for speaking out against the devastating consequences of gun violence," said Neha Patel, co-executive director of SiX. "Calling for gun safety within the people's house is an example of our democracy in action, expelling lawmakers for standing for what they believe in is not."

"Gun violence impacts all of us, especially the Black and brown communities many legislators in Tennessee represent," she added. "Ultimately, these kinds of actions present clear and present danger to our country and our democracy, and we must not allow it."

March for Our Lives, the national group that was formed in 2018 by survivors of the Parkland, Florida school shooting, announced it would hold a rally outside the State Capitol on Thursday in support of the Johnson, Jones, and Pearson.

"We will not be silenced or intimidated," said advocacy group Gen Z for Change, addressing state Republicans. "As elected officials, your power is derived from the people and we will make it painfully obvious when you decide to work against us."

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