NASHVILLE | Vice President Kamala Harris commended three Tennessee Democratic lawmakers on Friday for staging a pro-gun-control protest on the statehouse floor, prompting irate Republicans to eject two of them from the General Assembly.
In a surprise visit to Nashville, Harris praised three Democrats, Reps. Justin Jones of Nashville, Justin Pearson of Memphis, and Gloria Johnson of Knoxville, for their courage in advocating for gun reform in the aftermath of a horrific shooting at a Nashville private Christian school that murdered six people.
“It wasn’t about these three leaders; it was about what they represented,” she remarked at a Fisk University event. “It’s about who they were channeling.” “Isn’t that what a democracy allows?”
House Republicans decided Thursday to remove Jones and Pearson, both Black, for their involvement in the demonstration. Johnson, who is Caucasian, narrowly avoided expulsion by one vote.
“That is not democracy,” Harris added, referring to the expulsions. “You don’t silence the people, you don’t stifle the people, you don’t turn off their microphones when they are speaking about the importance of life and liberty,” she added.
During a conference call Friday before of Harris’ arrival, President Joe Biden also met with the three Democrats known as the “Tennessee Three.” According to the White House, Obama commended them for their leadership in attempting to prohibit assault weapons and sticking up for democratic ideals. He also extended an invitation.
Harris’ hastily arranged trip to Nashville came after Tennessee House Republicans voted overwhelmingly Thursday to expel Jones and Pearson. Jones was expelled on 72-25 vote. The vote to remove Pearce was 69-26. The expulsions have become a national flashpoint on the issues of gun control and race.
Upon arriving in Nashville, Harris met privately with the three Democrats at Fisk, which hosted a gathering of community leaders to support the expelled lawmakers. Afterward, she met with other Tennessee Democratic lawmakers and Nashville Mayor John Cooper.
Pearson was met with raucous applause and cheers as he arrived for the event. “They thought could expel democracy,” he said, addressing the crowd from a stone platform. “But we’re still here!”
In her remarks, Harris also praised students and other young leaders who converged upon the state Capitol en masse to push for gun control after the school shooting but haven’t swayed the state’s Republican majority. She encouraged them to continue the fight.
“I do believe that every generation has its calling, that there are moments in time that find you and require and depend on your leadership,” she said. “And so, in particular to all the young people, this issue is going to require your leadership.”
Harris renewed Biden’s call for Congress to pass a nationwide ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Assault weapons “were designed to kill a lot of people quickly” and have “no place on the streets of the civil society,” she said.
Among those waiting outside Fisk ahead of the event was Nicholas Umontuen, who teaches business administration at the university. Umontuen said he was “shocked” and “demoralized” by the decision to expel the lawmakers. But he said the national attention gives him hope to elevate the voices of young people fighting for change.
The trio of lawmakers were accused by Republican leadership of breaching decorum and floor rules for speaking at the House podium on March 30 without recognition.
But by moving ahead with the expulsions, the state’s Republican House speaker, Cameron Sexton, turned two Democrats who held no legislative power in a Republican supermajority into national heroes on the political left.
Biden, in a statement, called the expulsions “shocking, undemocratic and unprecedented.” He said that “rather than debating the merits” of gun control, “these Republican lawmakers have chosen to punish, silence, and expel duly-elected representatives of the people of Tennessee.”
Source | USA Today