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GOP Lawmakers Silence Black Democrat Once Expelled From Tennessee House

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The Republican-led Tennessee House on Monday (August 28) voted to silence a Democratic lawmaker who was previously expelled over protesting gun violence on the chamber floor.

Rep. Justin Jones (D-Nashville), a member of “Tennessee Three,” was temporarily silenced by a 70 to 20 vote along party lines after he questioned a Republican-sponsored bill that aims to have armed officers serve as school resource officers in the state’s public schools, per the Washington Post.

“SROs have not been shown to reduce instances of mass shootings,” Jones said Monday. The Democratic lawmaker noted that schools need more funding for mental health professionals and counselors instead of policing.

“We need to pay our teachers better, we don’t need more police in our schools,” Jones added.

House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R) then ruled that Jones was out of order, prompting the vote to silence him.

“Representative Jones, you are off the bill again,” he said.

The move to temporarily silence Jones comes after Tennesee House Republicans voted to expel him and Rep. Justin J. Pearson (D-Memphis), both of whom are Black, for protesting gun violence on the chamber floor in the wake of a March shooting at Nashville’s The Covenant School. A third Democrat, Rep. Gloria Johnson, who is white, also joined the protest but wasn’t expelled from the House.

Jones and Pearson won special elections to keep their state seats earlier this month.

Under new rules adopted by the Republican-majority Tennessee House, members can lose their right to speak in legislative debates if they are ruled to be out of order. Rep. Karen D. Camper (D-Memphis) said it was problematic for it to be solely up to the speaker to decide whether a member’s remarks are out of order.

As the House voted to silence Jones, members of the public watching the session shouted “fascists” in protest. Democratic members walked out of the chamber in solidarity with Jones.

Jones said Sexton “abused his gavel.”

“What is happening is not democratic, it is authoritarianism,” he said following the silencing vote.

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