Sunday, October 1, 2023

3 Democratic Representatives from Tennessee House might face expulsion


Share post:

Story and Feature Photo by Jenene Grover

At 10:13 a.m. on March 27, the Covenant School in Green Hills, Tennessee, made an emergency call because of an active shooter on their premises.

Thursday after the shooting, protesters went to the Tennessee Capitol while the Tennessee House was in session. Three representatives joined in on the protest during a 5-minute recess: Rep. Gloria Johnson from Knoxville, Rep. Justin Jones from Nashville and Rep. Justin Pearson from Memphis; the recess ended up lasting for almost an hour while officials figured out how to move forward.

Jones and Pearson used a bullhorn while in the well near the Speaker’s and Clerk’s desk to get their points across.

Pearson defended his actions on Twitter after the meeting.

“We took to the House floor demanding justice to end the support of the NRA, end the support of gun violence, & end support of these guns,” tweeted Pearson.

Johnson shared her experience and reasoning behind her part in the protest.

“It was a little frightening,” said Johnson. “I knew I was breaking a rule. I knew I was breaking a House rule by going to the well without permission, but I felt the lives of those children, in honor of those children who died and in solidarity for those children who are now terrified to go to school, for the parents who are terrified for to drop their kids off at school, they needed to be recognized, their issue needed to be recognized and the importance of the violence against them that is happening needs to be recognized. And more than recognized, we need to address it.”

Speaker of the Tennessee House Cameron Sexton later called this act an insurrection and likened it to the January 6 invasion of the U.S. Capitol. He also said he feared for his life.

“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,” said Sexton on Twitter.

All three representatives were removed from their House committees because of this protest. Now, they face expulsion from the House with a vote to be called on Thursday.

Many are calling their representatives and loudly protesting this legislation. Representatives from all over the country are calling the legislation unjust and illegal.

Protesters in the Capitol on the day the legislation was introduced were chanting “fascists” at the legislators. Sexton called for the gallery to be cleared, including both the protesters and the press.

After session ended, Pearson, Jones and Johnson held hands and chanted “the people united will never be divided” with other protesters.

“It’s morally insane that a week after a mass shooting took six lives in our community, House Republicans’ only response is to expel us for standing with our constituents to call for gun control. What’s happening in Tennessee is a clear danger to democracy all across this nation,” said Jones on Twitter.

Jones has cited the Tennessee Constitution Article 2 Section 27 in protection of his actions.

This section states “Any member of either House of the General Assembly shall have liberty to dissent from and protest against, any act or resolve which he may think injurious to the public or to any individual, and to have the reasons for his dissent entered on the journals.”

In contrast, the sponsors of the legislation are citing the Tennessee Constitution Article 2 Section 12 to expel the representatives.

This section states “Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member, but not a second time for the same offense; and shall have all other powers necessary for a branch of the Legislature of a free state.”

The three representatives are posting about this legislation and still pleading with the Tennessee House to enact gun legislation.

“I believe that we all need to speak up and stand up and keep letting them know, whether it’s calls, emails, letters to the editor, showing up at the Capitol, we need to let them know that we’re not going to let this issue go,” said Johnson.

Before going into session last Thursday, Johnson was able to speak with some of the protesters.

“I got there early. I was there at 7:30 to meet some of them, to talk with them. There were people there from Covenant,” said Johnson. “I talked to moms that had just dropped their kids off at school, and they talked to me, they cried about how terrified they were dropping their kids off at school.”

This was not Johnson’s first experience with a school shooting. Johnson previously taught at Central High School in Knoxville, and in 2008 she lived through an active shooter situation.

“I just remember after the kids started running down to my room, then I started hearing the sirens,” said Johnson. “Every single time after that day, every time sirens sounded when I was at school it was just instant terror.”

In a press conference Monday, Bill Lee announced plans to enhance security at Tennessee public schools and increase mental health resources.

Jenene Grover is the government and politics reporter for MTSU Sidelines.

To contact News Editor Kailee Shores and Assistant News Editor Alyssa Williams, email

For more news, visit, or follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines or on Twitter and Instagram at @mtsusidelines.

Related articles

MTSU professor brings triceratops skull to Earth Experience Museum

Featured Photo by Mandi O'Grady Story by Noah McLane and Alyssa Williams Middle Tennessee State University professor Alan Brown brought...

Gov. Lee, MTSU President McPhee announce Shelbyville airport as new home for aerospace program

Featured Photo by Noah McLane Story by Noah McLane MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee announced Shelbyville as the new home...

Constitution Week at MTSU: an annual celebration

Featured Photo by Jenene Grover Story by Jenene Grover and RJ Ware Middle Tennessee State University celebrated Constitution Week with...

MTSU’s new “locked classroom” policy spawns questions and difficulties

Featured Photo by Brian Branch Story by Bayleigh Elliott Over the past decade, school shootings have increased at a rapid...