On April 6, 2023, the Tennessee State House of Representatives expelled Justin Pearson and Justin Jones, two duly elected state representatives. A third state representative, Rep. Gloria Johnson, was threatened with expulsion but managed to retain her seat by a margin of one vote from her fellow representatives.
Why were these representatives expelled?
Representatives Pearson, Jones, and Johnson, took place in a peaceful protest, alongside thousands of their constituents, demanding gun reform legislation in the state of Tennessee. The protest also sought to call out their fellow representatives for their lack of action on gun reform legislation in the state. They did so only after having their microphones cut as they attempted to speak on the statehouse floor, which is their right as elected lawmakers. It is also their right per the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
On April 10, 2023, the Nashville Metropolitan Council voted unanimously to reappoint Justin Jones to his seat. It is expected that Justin Pearson will be reappointed in the same way by the Shelby County Commission on Wednesday. These reappointments are provisional and both Jones and Pearson will have to run in a special election to retain their seats.
How does the First Amendment of the United States Constitution address peaceful protest?
The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The United States has a long and storied history of peaceful protest, starting with its founding. To read more about the history of peaceful protest in this country, check out these books.
Books on Justice, Power, Speech, & Activism