Tennessee State Troopers had to block a stairway at the Tennessee Capitol on Thursday to hold protesters back after they stormed the building ahead of a vote to expel three lawmakers who disrupted the legislative session last week to demand more gun control in response to a school shooting in Nashville.
Protesters surged into the state capitol building ahead of the vote and chanted "let us up" as state troopers blocked the stairway. Before the vote, troopers stopped allowing visitors into the building for a time.
State Representatives Gloria Johnson, Justin Pearson, and Justin Jones, who are being called the "Tennessee Three," broke decorum rules to join protesters during House proceedings last week, using a bullhorn to demand a ban on assault weapons and preventing official business from continuing.
With protesters contained on Thursday, House Republicans used their supermajority to expel two of the three lawmakers, Pearson and Jones. Johnson survived by a single vote.
It wasn't clear why only two of the three were expelled.
Other Democrat lawmakers tried to claim that racism was involved since the two expelled were Black and Johnson was white, but Republicans said that race was not a factor in the votes.
Protesters in the visitor's gallery screamed "Shame!" and "Fascists!" and booed after the vote.
Republican Rep. Gino Bulso said the three Democrats had “effectively conducted a mutiny” and said along with other Republicans that they had to send a message that disruptions could not be tolerated.
Jones pledged to continue protesting at the Capitol even after his ouster.
“Rather than pass laws that will address red flags and banning assault weapons and universal background checks, they passed resolutions to expel their colleagues,” Jones said. “And they think that the issue is over. We’ll see you on Monday.”
Pearson said that the three had broken “a House rule because we’re fighting for kids who are dying from gun violence and people in our communities who want to see an end to the proliferation of weaponry in our communities.”
Johnson, a retired teacher, said she had experienced the trauma of children who had a classmate killed in 2008.
County commissioners could theoretically choose Jones and Pearson to fill the seats until a special election can be held, placing them back in their positions. Furthermore, they cannot be expelled twice for the same reason, so Republicans' efforts could be thwarted if county Democrats were on board with the idea.