The Tennessee House of Representatives has moved to expel two of its Democratic members, both of whom are Black, while sparing a third white member after the trio protested gun violence on the chamber floor last week, per CNN.
Democratic Reps. Gloria Johnson of Knoxville, Justin Jones of Nashville, and Justin Pearson of Memphis were previously accused of breaking House decorum rules during a protest on the House Floor where they called for gun reform in the wake of the Nashville school shooting.
Earlier this week, GOP lawmakers filed three resolutions seeking to expel the House Democrats from office.
Over two-thirds of the House voted on Thursday (April 6) to remove Jones and Pearson, two Black members, from office. However, Johnson, who is white, was spared from expulsion.
Johnson blasted the House as racist for expelling Jones and Pearson. The Knoxville lawmaker said it's "pretty clear" why she was the only one who didn't face expulsion.
“I am a 60-year-old White woman, and they are two young Black men,” Johnson said.
Only two other lawmakers, one for alleged sexual harassment and the other for bribery, have been expelled from the House in the last 157 years.
Many Democratic politicians and social justice groups have criticized Thursday's expulsions, saying voters in Jones' and Pearson's districts have been stripped of the representation they voted for.
Jones said the move pulls attention away from the real issue: gun violence.
“Rather than address the issue of banning assault weapons, my former colleagues – a Republican supermajority – are assaulting democracy,” Jones told CNN. “And that should scare all of us across the nation.”
In a statement on Thursday, President Joe Biden said the expulsions were “shocking, undemocratic and without precedent."
“Rather than debating the merits of the issue, these Republican lawmakers have chosen to punish, silence, and expel duly-elected representatives of the people of Tennessee,” Biden said.
Following their expulsion, Pearson's and Jones' profiles have been removed from the Tennessee General Assembly’s website, and their districts are listed as vacant.
Interim House members will likely fill their seats until an election is held, per Tennessee law. Johnson said Jones and Pearson could be reappointed to their seats.
“I think we might have these two young men back very soon,” Johnson said Thursday. “It is my promise to fight like hell to get both of them back.”