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Two Tennessee Democrats expelled over gun control protest

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Tennessee’s Republican-dominated House of Representatives has expelled two Democrats over their participation in a gun control demonstration at the state legislature last week.

The protest came in the wake of the school shooting in Nashville on 27 March where six people, including three children, were killed.

The Republicans, who control the house 75-23, voted to remove representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson.

A move to expel a third Democratic member who stood with them during the protest on the floor of the chamber, Gloria Johnson, failed by one vote.

Republican representatives Andrew Farmer, Gino Bulso, and Bud Hulsey had filed the three resolutions on Monday to expel their Democratic colleagues, saying they broke decorum by leading the demonstration.

Rep. Justin Pearson, Rep. Justin Jones, and Rep. Gloria Johnson leave the Tennessee State Capitol
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Gloria Johnson (L), Justin Jones (C), and Justin Pearson (R) leave the Tennessee State Capitol

The House voted 72-25 along party lines to remove Mr Jones and 69-26 to remove Mr Pearson. But Ms Johnson was spared when the vote to expel her came up 65-30.

A total of 66 votes are needed for expulsion.

More on Nashville Shooting

“You cannot ignore the racial dynamic of what happened today. Two young black lawmakers get expelled and the one white woman does not. That’s a statement in and of itself,” Mr Pearson told reporters after the vote.

President Joe Biden decried the proceedings, tweeting that they were “shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent”.

Former president Barack Obama also criticised the move, saying: “This nation was built on peaceful protest. No elected official should lose their job simply for raising their voice – especially when they’re doing it on behalf of our children.”

Read more:
Nashville school shooting: First pictures emerge of victims
Nashville school shooter ‘plotted attack for months’

Only two Tennessee state representatives have been expelled by their colleagues since the Civil War: one in 1980 for soliciting a bribe in exchange for blocking legislation and another in 2016 after being accused of sexual misconduct by numerous women.

Both expulsions were made with overwhelming, bipartisan votes.

The Democratic Party in Tennessee said it was raising funds to support special elections for any of those expelled.

Protesters gathered in the public gallery
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Protesters gathered in the public gallery

The three Democratic lawmakers led protesters last week to demand stricter gun laws.

Republicans in the resolutions calling for their expulsion accused the three of engaging in “disorderly behaviour” and said they “did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonour to the House of Representatives through their individual and collective actions”.

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