Chants of 'fascists!' break out as Tennessee GOP moves to expel Dems over gun control protest

Chants of 'fascists!' break out as Tennessee GOP moves to expel Dems over gun control protest
Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives Cameron Sexton at a fundraiser for Representative Mary Littleton in Dickson, TN on 24 October 2019

Tennessee House Republicans on Monday initiated the process of expelling three Democratic lawmakers who joined protesters in demanding stricter gun laws following the Nashville mass shooting that left three young children and three adults dead.

Days after last week's shooting, thousands of demonstrators flooded the Tennessee state Capitol to decry GOP lawmakers' inaction in the face of deadly gun violence. Inside the House chamber, Democratic Reps. Justin Jones, Gloria Johnson, and Justin Pearson took to the podium with a bullhorn and led demonstrators in chants supporting gun control legislation.

As The Tennessean reported, Tennessee House Republicans cast the trio's actions as an "insurrection" and, at the end of Monday's session, "introduced three expulsion resolutions" claiming that the three Democrats "did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives through their individual and collective actions."

A vote on the resolutions is expected on Thursday. "Democrats will have little power to block expulsions," The Tennessean noted.

The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators said in a statement that "this political retribution is unconstitutional and, in this moment, morally bankrupt."

"The people who elected us are calling for meaningful action to end gun violence and the people have a right to be heard through their duly elected representatives," the statement added.

While the House moved to schedule the vote, demonstrators inside the chamber chanted "Fascists!"—leading Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton to order the galleries cleared and call on state troopers to remove protesters.

"Media forced out at as well," tweeted Jones, who—along with Johnson—has already been stripped of his committee assignments. Jones said a Republican lawmaker shoved him and grabbed his phone as he was recording a video of demonstrations inside the chamber on Monday.

"This is a sad day for Tennessee," he wrote.

The GOP-controlled Legislature's expulsion efforts came after thousands of Nashville students walked out of their classrooms earlier Monday to demand action on gun violence, which is now the leading cause of death for children in the United States—a country with more guns than people.

Far from backing gun control legislation, Tennessee Republicans have sought to make firearms even more readily accessible in recent years. The New York Timesreported last week that Tennessee lawmakers "have passed a series of measures that have weakened regulations, eliminating some permit requirements and allowing most residents to carry loaded guns in public, open or concealed, without a permit, training, or special background checks."

Facing expulsion, the Democratic trio in Tennessee has continued to voice solidarity with those rallying for change in the streets and at the state Capitol.

Pearson, one of Tennessee's youngest lawmakers, told a local media outlet that "the thousands of children and adults who marched outside of the People's House are not insurrectionists."

"My walk, my colleagues' walk to the House floor was in a peaceful and civil manner, and it was not an insurrection,” Pearson said, pushing back on the state GOP's characterization of the protests.

Jones, who like Pearson took office earlier this year, vowed Monday that "we'll not be intimidated."

"THE PEOPLE are demanding we act to stop kids from being murdered in school," Jones wrote on Twitter.

This story has been updated with a statement from the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators.

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