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April 7, 2023
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The unusual expulsion of two Democratic congressmen for protesting the control of arms sales in the US.

April 7, 2023, 11:26 AM

April 7, 2023, 11:26 AM

Justin Jones, Gloria Johnson and Justin Pearson raise their hands in the rotunda of the State Capitol in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., April 6

Justin Jones, Gloria Johnson and Justin Pearson raise their hands in the middle of the state capitol in Nashville, Tennessee.

The state congress of Tennessee, in the US, made an unusual decision on Thursday in the politics of this country: to expel two congressmen from the Democratic party for participating in mobilizations to request greater control over the sale of weapons within the state. .

The legislative body, where the Republican party is in the majority, voted to expel Justin Jones and Justin Pearson.

But at the same time, Gloria Johnson, another Democratic congresswoman who had participated in the protests, kept her position thanks to the fact that the vote did not reach a majority to expel her.

This story effectively begins with a shooting: on March 27, six people, including three children, were killed in an attack at Covenant Elementary School in the city of Nashville.

The attack had an enormous repercussion, especially due to the death of minors. So the senators, now known as the “Tennessee Three,” were part of a massive mobilization on March 30 toward the state capitol to demand control over gun sales.

The three senators chanted the phrase “no action, no peace” as they walked towards the compound.

That same day there was also a mobilization by the “pro-arms” group, with the idea of ​​counteracting the protest led by the Democratic senators.

Justin Pearson.

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Justin Pearson raises his left hand as a way to protest Tennessee’s expulsion from state congress.
Justin Jones and Justin Pearce

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Justin Jones and Justin Pearce as they enter the Tennessee State Capitol.

Two of the state congressmen, megaphone in hand, gave intense speeches at the entrance of the capitol, located in the city of Nashville.

“We don’t want to be here, but we have no choice but to find a way, to disrupt normal sales, because normal sales are the death of our children,” Pearson said.


Capitol sessions that day were interrupted for more than an hour. Democratic congressmen chanted “enough is enoughand “power to the people.”

Political analysts pointed out that Johnson was not expelled because she did not use a megaphone.

However, she herself has indicated that the Republicans did not expel her because she is white, while Jones and Pearson are black.

US President Joe Biden, who belongs to the Democratic Party, criticized the decision, calling it “undemocratic, unprecedented and shocking.”

Jones told the BBC that this decision has left around 78,000 people from one of the most diverse districts in the state unrepresented.

“An extreme Republican supermajority, almost entirely a white caucus, ousted the two youngest black legislators because we were demanding action against gun violence,” Jones explained.

The Tennessee State House of Representatives is made up of 75 Republican congressmen and 23 Democrats.

Chamber members discussed the expulsions for hours on Thursday. It is the first time such a decision has been made without bipartisan support in the state’s modern history.

Tennessee State Representative Justin Jones, standing with Representative Justin Pearson and Representative Gloria Johnson, calls on colleagues to pass gun control legislation from the House Chambers pit during the legislative session, three days after the mass shooting at The Covenant School.  at the State Capitol in Nashville, Tennessee, USA, March 30, 2023.

Justin Jones, standing with Rep. Justin Pearson and Rep. Gloria Johnson, calls on his colleagues to pass gun control legislation on March 30.

Johnson was saved by one vote from being expelled. A decision that was celebrated by the dozens of people who were in plenary during the voting.

The three congressmen accepted that they had broken state congressional rules by speaking without special permission, but they insisted that their actions did not lead to expulsion.

However, the Republican majority noted that the “Tennessee Three” had brought “disorder and dishonor to the capitol“.

Some members of the Republican party said the actions of the Democrats could have sparked an insurrection. Especially, the leader of the state capitol, Cameron Sexton, who compared the act with the attack on the Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021.

“They can come back”

The truth is that both Jones and Pearson could return to the precinct soon because the expulsion does not disqualify them from aspiring to the position in the next elections.

Besides, the county government that both congressmen represent may appoint an interim representative in the event of a vacancy.

For this reason, the expelled congressmen can be appointed on an interim basis in the positions they were forced to leave and later be candidates in the elections that will be called. to replace their posts in the coming months.

Expulsions of this type are not common in the US in general. In Tennessee, the same capitol has voted only twice to expel its members. In 1980 to fire a congressman who had requested a bribe and in 2016 one who had been accused of sexual abuse.

But these expulsions had strong support from both parties.


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In recent days there have been several protests to toughen the laws for the sale of weapons in several US states.

Before voting began Thursday, House members debated more than 20 bills, some related to school safety.

Throughout the discussion, Jones rose to speak several times, accusing his colleagues of passing “lukewarm cloth” legislation in response to the mass shootings.

“It’s not one action that will make our students safe,” he said.

“We as elected officials have a moral responsibility to listen to these young people who are terrified, who are here crying and pleading for their lives.”

In response, a visibly upset Republican Mark White told Jones: “Look at me. Look at the other 97 [legisladores]. This is exactly what we are trying to do.”

White continued: “I’ve been here for 14 years, you’ve been in this assembly for two months, three months.”

Tennessee has some of the most relaxed gun control laws in the country. In 2021, the state passed a measure allowing residents 21 and older to carry firearms without special permission.

In fact, the perpetrator of the attack on the Nashville school on March 27 had legally purchased seven different weapons.

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