NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The world watched Nashville Thursday, as the Tennessee House expelled two members.
“The world saw what happened yesterday,” Rep. Sam McKenzie (D-Knoxville) said. “Our two young African-American brothers were unfairly prosecuted.”
Friday morning saw the Tennessee Black Caucus come together and condemn the expulsions.
“Many of us were fighting back tears, and when we went back into the chamber, many of our tears broke,” said Rep. Jesse Chism (D-Memphis). “It was a shame to see some of the smirks, some of the smiles, that our colleagues on the other side of the aisle had.”
The Caucus pointed out the two expelled representatives – Justin Pearson and Justin Jones – are Black. Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville), who survived by one vote, is white.
“It’s not a good look,” Johnson said. “The questioning was definitely pointed to those two young wonderful brilliant men.”
Republican leadership pushed back on the notion, saying race wasn’t a factor.
“All three of us voted for expulsion on every one of them,” House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) said, referring to himself plus Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton and Rep. Jeremy Faison. “Even though Representative Johnson wasn’t yelling with a sign or a bullhorn, she came to the well and participated in that behavior, and that was enough for me.”
“I had to shut the House down in order to gain control of it,” Sexton (R-Crossville) said, later. “So, their actions caused a protest, which the Tennessean just confirmed happened on the House floor.”
The Black Caucus called on some middle ground.
“We need more Howard Baker-type Republicans that say the guy on the other side might just be right,” McKenzie said. “We’re right this time. They’re wrong.”
As for the expelled members, Johnson probably put it best. “They’re going to be back.”