Tennessee House will vote to expel three members after raucous session

Published 5:14 pm Wednesday, April 5, 2023

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The Tennessee House is scheduled to vote Thursday on removing three Democratic members.

House resolutions were filed Monday to remove the legislators, who were involved in a protest that stopped action in the House on Thursday. The action was approved after protestors in the House gallery were removed.

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Near the start of the session, two protestors were removed for shouting out during opening remarks. Later, when the resolutions to expel were brought to the floor, people began shouting again and the gallery was cleared, as House Speaker Cameron Sexton had warned he would do earlier in the night.

The House resolutions are to expel Reps. Justin Pearson, D-Memphis, Justin Jones, D-Nashville, and Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville. Pearson and Jones spoke from a megaphone during Thursday’s session as protestors chanted.

At the end of the session, Jones said that he was grabbed by Rep. Justin Lafferty, R-Knoxville, and his phone was taken by another member during the removal of protestors.

Jones said that he had video of the incident on his phone and Johnson promised to post it on Monday night.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Ray Clemmons asked that the member who grabbed Jones be removed from the body as well for “felony battery” but Republican House Leader William Lamberth responded that the accusation described sounded more like “misdemeanor assault” because a weapon was not used.

Earlier in the day, Sexton said his comments about Thursday’s interruption were not directed at the students who came to the Legislature to protest.

“My comments on Thursday were not directed toward the peaceful protestors; they were solely directed toward the actions of three Democrat lawmakers who rushed the well and those who led a protest on the House floor with a bullhorn,” Sexton wrote. “Their actions are and will always be unacceptable, and they break several rules of decorum and procedure on the House floor. Their actions and beliefs that they could be arrested on the House floor were an effort, unfortunately, to make themselves the victims. In effect, those actions took away the voices of the protestors, the focus on the six victims who lost their lives, and the families who lost their loved ones.”

On Thursday night, Johnson posted the resolution to expel, writing “expulsion resolutions filed.”