KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Several activist groups held a demonstration in downtown Knoxville Tuesday, protesting the potential expulsion of State Representative Gloria Johnson.
Johnson, along with Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, led a protest on the House floor, calling for action following the school shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville. Now, all three representatives will face an expulsion vote Thursday.
More than 100 people gathered next to Krutch Park Tuesday evening, demanding lawmakers to vote “no” on the expulsion vote. Brady Watson with the Knoxville Democratic Socialists of America helped plan the rally.
“We think it’s taking the will of the people away from the people, people elected them to serve [the way] we think they should be able to serve,” Watson said.
Protesters made their way downtown to the Knoxville City-County Building. Watson said it is important to show support for the representatives locally, in addition to in Nashville.
“We thought that it was pretty egregious that Republican supermajority would expel members of the House just for speaking out about violence in our communities and in our state,” he said. “So, we wanted to make sure we had a response locally, and not just have it be focused on Nashville. Obviously, that community is most directly impacted by that but I think it’s important to show up and sort of show solidarity with Nashville.”
Watson traveled to Nashville earlier in the week when rumors of the expulsion vote began, along with Nicky Skinner, the East Tennessee Community Organizer with Planned Parenthood.
“We expected the motion to be filed yesterday, and we also first thought the vote would happen yesterday, so myself, Brady and a couple other folks from Knoxville drove down to Nashville, along with a bunch of other advocates to pack the gallery and the rotunda as they introduced this resolution,” Skinner said.
She thinks the possible expulsion is a distraction from the issue at hand.
“What the House Republicans are doing right now is frankly anti-democratic. These representatives were fairly elected into office to serve us, and it is unacceptable that these legislators are playing games with our lives and think their personal egos and political motives are more important than the voice and input of the people,” she said.
Skinner is planning to go back to Nashville for the vote and is encouraging others to do so.
“We know the only way we have a chance of getting them to vote no on this expulsion motion on Thursday morning, is if we pack the Capitol with people who understand that there’s a lot on the line and that we don’t have time for these games,” she said.
WATE also spoke with State Representative Jason Zachary, who said Johnson’s actions put others at risk.
“It became a situation that, there were some serious safety concerns, so I would say that’s not good representation of the people you represent. every one of us had the opportunity to do that, but again there’s a process, there’s a decorum,” he said.
Zachary also described Johnson’s actions as “inciting a mob.”
“There’s sets of rules that are to be followed, and when those are violated and broken, then we as a body, can choose per Article 2, Section 12 of the Constitution, if we feel like that is a blatant violation, it gives us the opportunity to expel. We took advantage of that constitutional opportunity given to the body, to move forward with that and we’ll take that final vote on Thursday,” Zachary said.
Each of the three representatives will be given the opportunity to defend their actions ahead of the vote.