Harris Travels to Tennessee After 2 Lawmakers Expelled


U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris traveled Friday to the Southern U.S. state of Tennessee, where she criticized Republican lawmakers for taking the rare step a day earlier of expelling two Democratic lawmakers from the legislature because they participated in a protest at the Capitol calling for more gun control.

In a speech at Fisk University, Nashville’s historically Black university, Harris said the ousted lawmakers were being silenced for standing up for the lives of schoolchildren, referencing last month’s deadly school shooting in Nashville.

The vice president met privately with the expelled lawmakers — Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson — along with a third lawmaker, Representative Gloria Johnson, who avoided the ouster by one vote.

U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with the three by conference call Friday, thanking them “for their leadership in seeking to ban assault weapons and standing up for our democratic values,” according to the White House. He invited the lawmakers to visit the White House soon.

On Thursday, Biden tweeted that the expulsion of the lawmakers was “shocking, undemocratic and without precedent.”

Former Rep. Justin Pearson waves to his supporters in the gallery as he delivers his final remarks on the floor of the House chamber as he is expelled from the legislature April 6, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn.

The expelled lawmakers took part in the protest last week calling for more gun control in the aftermath of the Nashville school shooting that left three adults and three 9-year-old students dead.

During the protest, the three Democrats approached the front of the House chamber with a bullhorn and participated in a chant, violating the legislature’s rules of decorum. However, the extreme punishment of expulsion had seldom been used in the past and only for more serious transgressions.

“We called for you all to ban assault weapons, and you respond with an assault on democracy,” ousted politician Jones said.

GOP leaders said it was necessary to expel the lawmakers to avoid setting a precedent that disrupting House proceedings would be tolerated.

Republican state Representative Gino Bulso said the three Democrats had “effectively conducted a mutiny.”

The expelled lawmakers are African American men, while Johnson, who narrowly avoided expulsion, is a white woman. Republican leaders have denied that race had anything to do with the expulsions.

“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,” Pearson said.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and JP.

Las Vegas News Magazine

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