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TN GOP Expels Two Democrats For Gun Protests On House Floor

Two Black freshman Tennessee lawmakers were expelled by Republicans for speaking out of turn in a gun safety protest. The GOP declined to remove a third Democratic lawmaker, who is white and who participated in the same demonstration on the state House floor last week, reports Politico. Republicans’ effort to remove the Democrats has caught national attention for its unprecedented use of power in a statehouse. Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were expelled in a vote largely along party lines. Rep. Gloria Johnson escaped removal from office because Republicans failed to gather the necessary two-thirds-majority support. When asked why Johnson was the only lawmaker to evade expulsion, she answered: “It might have to do with the color of our skin.” Their offense was joining protesters who gathered in Nashville to call for gun-law reform after a deadly school shooting that left seven dead, including the shooter. The members approached the lectern without being called on by House GOP leadership and toted a bullhorn to lead chants on the House floor, a stunt that temporarily suspended legislative business.

The move by Republicans is remarkable for its naked partisanship and the speed with which it was executed. The process of removing lawmakers is a bipartisan undertaking in most states, often involving internal investigations after criminal charges or ethical lapses. In Tennessee, only two other House members had been removed before Thursday's proceedings, both after criminal violations or sexual misconduct. Special elections will be held to replace the expelled members, but nothing would hold those members back from running again. The state constitution forbids lawmakers from being removed from office twice for the same offense. The expulsion vote marks “just another anti-democratic effort to silence the American people for speaking out against the devastating consequences of gun violence,” said Neha Patel of the State Innovation Exchange, a nonprofit supporting progressive state lawmakers, in a letter signed by hundreds of lawmakers from across the country. Jones, after his expulsion, said the proceedings do “not seem like America. To expel voices of opposition and dissent is a signal of authoritarianism and it is very dangerous,” he said.


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