NASHVILLE (Tenn.) — Republican lawmakers voted on Monday to silence a Democratic Member of the so-called Tennessee Three in an already tense House Floor Session after determining that the young Black Member had violated newly passed rules intended to punish disruptive Members.
This was a direct attack on Rep. Justin Jones. He could not speak or debate any bills during the rest of the floor session. The vote was followed by loud cries, chants and shouts which drowned the proceedings for several moments even after the House Speaker ordered that the gallery be cleared.
Jones began listing the other resources which should be provided by the state a few moments earlier, when he was criticizing legislation which would have allowed for more law enforcement officers to be in schools.
House Speaker Cameron Sexton warned Jones to stay on topic. According to new rules adopted last week by the GOP-dominated chamber, members could be silenced for a day or even the entire year if they do not stick to the bill that is being discussed.
Jones stated that mental health professionals are what our schools require. Jones said, “We need to fund mental health and counselors. Teachers need to be paid better. We don’t need more police in our schools.”
Sexton then ruled Jones’s out-of-order, putting the matter to a vote about whether or not he should be quieted for the remainder of Monday’s meeting.
The next phase was a chaotic rush of legislative proceedings. Outraged by the decision to try to silence Jones, Democrats began to plead with their GOP counterparts to change their mind. Republicans were not convinced, though, and 70 GOP lawmakers voted to silence Jones. Democratic members left the chamber angrily with Jones.
Sexton told troopers to remove the public from the gallery after the crowd, including gun control activists who were calling for change following a deadly school shooting that occurred in Nashville in March, yelled “racists” or “fascists.”
The crowd was still in the seats, and the cries “vote out” and “Whose House, Our House” drowned the legislative proceedings. At one point, a Republican legislator said that he could not hear what he should be voting on.
Jones was one of two Tennessee legislators expelled this year because of his involvement in a gun control protest at the Tennessee Capitol.
The protest came only days after a gunman opened fire on a private Christian School in Nashville, killing 3 children and 3 adults. Jones, along with Reps. Justin Pearson & Gloria Johnson, approached the House floor uninvited and used a bullhorn to join the chants & cries of action from protesters outside the chamber and in the public gallery.
Pearson and Jones were both black, but Johnson, a white man, was spared one vote. Both have been reelected since.