Two Black Democratic representatives were expelled by the Republican-controlled Tennessee House of Representatives for protesting gun control on the House floor following the Nashville school shooting,” reports The Washington Post. Their House seats are now listed as “vacant.”
Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were removed by a vote of 72-25 and 69-26 along party lines. A third Democratic member Gloria Johnson, a white woman who aligned with Jones and Pearson during the protest came up one vote short of expulsion, 65-30
Their expulsions were filed by Republican lawmakers Andrew Farmer, Gino Bulso, and Bud Hulsey last Monday claiming the Democratic representatives broke "decorum" by protesting in the well of the House floor.
Bulso said that Jones consented to his own removal by his behavior that went against the law.
"He and two other representatives effectively conducted a mutiny," Bulso said. "Not to expel him would simply invite him and his colleagues to continue to engage in mutiny on the House floor."
In the aftermath of the vote, the issue of race in the partisan retaliatory vote was brought to the center of the debate.
"You cannot ignore the racial dynamic of what happened today. Two young Black lawmakers get expelled and the one white woman does not,” Pearson explained to reporters after the vote. “That's a statement in and of itself.”
When Johnson was asked why she believed that she was not expelled, she responded, “It might have to do with the color of our skin.”
Bob Mendes, an at-large member of the Nashville Metropolitan Council, tweeted that a meeting will be held to reinstate Jones.
“I will vote to name Justin Jones back into the State House to represent my constituents,” Mendes tweeted.
The last time the Tennessee House expelled a member was when Rep. Jeremy Durham was accused of sexual misconduct with several women in 2016. In 1980, Rep. Robert Fisher was removed from the House after accepting a bribe in exchange for tanking a piece of legislation. Back in 1866, six members were expelled “for the contempt of the authority of this House."
Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, called the move “legislative racism and cowardice” adding that decision was “racist and anti-democratic."
Following the unprecedented measure, President Joe Biden described the proceedings as "shocking, undemocratic and without precedent."