Tennessee Republican lawmakers took the first steps Monday to expel three Democratic members from the GOP-dominant House for their role in a recent gun control protest at the state Capitol.
The extraordinarily rare move resulted in a chaotic and fiery confrontation between lawmakers and supporters opposing the move and has further fractured an already deep political division inside the Tennessee Legislature.
Resolutions have been filed against Reps. Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson after they led chants from the House floor with supporters in the gallery last Thursday. The resolution declared that the three had participated in “disorderly behavior” and “did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives.”
Republican Reps. Bud Hulsey, Gino Bulso, and Andrew Farmer filed the resolutions. They successfully requested Monday that the House expedite the process and vote on the resolutions Thursday.
Despite support from the Republican supermajority, their requests sparked outrage among supporters watching in the gallery. Their loud jeers led House Speaker Cameron Sexton to demand that they be removed by state troopers. Also during the turmoil, several lawmakers engaged in a confrontation on the House floor. Jones later accused another member of stealing his phone and trying to “incite a riot with his fellow members.”
Sexton deemed Jones out of order and cut off Jones’ microphone.
Hundreds of protesters packed the Capitol last week calling for the Republican-led Statehouse to pass gun control measures in response to the Nashville school shooting that resulted in the deaths of six people. As the chants echoed throughout the Capitol, Jones, Johnson and Pearson approached the front of the House chamber with a bullhorn.
As the three shared the bullhorn and cheered on the crowd, Sexton, a Republican, quickly called for a recess. He later vowed the three would face consequences. Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Karen Camper described their actions as “good trouble,” a reference to the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ guiding principal.
By Monday, Sexton confirmed that the three lawmakers had been stripped of their committee assignments and said more punishments could be on the way. A few hours later, House Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison referred to Jones as the “former representative” during the evening session.
Pearson and Jones are both freshman lawmakers. Johnson has served in the House since 2019. All three have been highly critical of the Republican supermajority. Jones was temporarily banned from the Tennessee Capitol in 2019 after throwing a cup of liquid at former House Speaker Glen Casada and other lawmakers while protesting the bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest inside the Capitol.
Expelling lawmakers is an extraordinary action inside the Tennessee Capitol. Just two other House members have ever been ousted from the chamber since the Civil War.