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‘Tennessee Three’ member disciplined again by Republican lawmakers, prompting further angry crowd backlash


Nashville — Republican lawmakers voted Monday to silence a Democratic member of the so-called Tennessee Three during an already tense session in the House after it was determined that the young black member violated newly adopted rules intended to punish disruptive members.

The move targeted Rep. Justin Jones and barred him from speaking and debating bills for the rest of the sitting. The vote elicited shouts and chants that drowned out the proceedings for several minutes, even after the Speaker of the House ordered the gallery to be cleared.

Tennessee Special Session
Rep. Justin Jones, Democrat of Nashville, speaks to reporters outside the House chamber after being silenced for the day by an indoor vote during a special session of the U.S. Legislature State on Public Safety Aug. 28, 2023, in Nashville.

George Walker IV / AP


Moments earlier, Jones had criticized legislation that would have allowed more law enforcement officers in schools and started listing other resources the state should provide.

House Speaker Cameron Sexton had warned Jones not to stray from the topic. Under new rules passed by the Republican-dominated chamber last week, members can be silenced for a day or the rest of the year if they don’t stick to the current bill. of debate.

“Our schools need mental health professionals,” Jones said. “We need funding for mental health, for counsellors. We need to pay our teachers better. We don’t need more police in our schools.”

Sexton then ruled Jones out of order, setting up a vote on whether to silence him for the remainder of Monday’s session.

What happened next was a chaotic flurry of legislative proceedings in which Democrats, outraged by the decision to move forward trying to silence Jones for the day, began to plead and try to convince their fellow Republicans to change their minds. Republican lawmakers are unconvinced, however, with 70 GOP members voting to silence Jones. The Democratic members then angrily left the room with Jones.

“This should be very unsettling for all of us,” Jones said after leaving the room, according to CBS Nashville affiliate WTVF. “He said that because I mentioned the need for mental health professionals in schools versus SROs (school resource officers) I was left out of the bill. Why was this ruled out of order and why have I been silenced for speaking out on a relevant issue in my district? Silence a member. Silence us all.

The crowd, which included gun control advocates, urging change at a special session after a Deadly shooting at a Nashville school in Marchshouted “fascists” and “racists”, and Sexton ordered soldiers to clear members of the public from the gallery.

Special Session on Public Safety in Nashville, Tennessee
Protesters are removed from the gallery of the House on August 28, 2023 after Democratic Tennessee State Representative Justin Jones was silenced by procedural measure during a special session on public safety for discuss gun violence in the aftermath of the Covenant School shooting in Nashville.

CHENEY ORR / REUTERS


Many in the crowd remained in the stands and their cries of “Vote them out” and “Whose house, our house” drowned out the legislative debates for several minutes, enough at one point for a Republican lawmaker to declare that he couldn’t hear what was going on. he was supposed to vote.

Jones was among two Tennessee lawmakers expelled earlier this year for his role in a pro-gun control protest at the Tennessee Capitol.

The protest came just days after a gunman opened fire at a private Christian school in Nashville, killing three children and three adults. Jones joined Representatives Justin Pearson and Gloria Johnson in approaching the front of the House without permission with a megaphone, joining in chants and calls for action from protesters in the public gallery and outside bedroom.

Pearson and Jones, both black, were sent off while Johnson, who is white, was spared a vote. Both men have since been re-elected to their positions.


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