NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — On the eve of one of the most anticipated days in Tennessee legislature history, a group of clergy members took to the Capitol to sing and protest.
“We claim to be lovers of the Constitution, but that love cannot be selective love,” Greater Bethel AME Church Rev. Byron Moore said. “Either we love the Constitution or we don’t.”
Thursday morning will see the House decide if it will expel Reps. Justin Jones (D-Nashville), Justin Pearson (D-Memphis), and Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville).
“They’re trying to say their voices weren’t heard. You listen to them speak in committees all the time,” Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) said. “Justin Pearson talks almost every bill on the House floor. They’ve had plenty of opportunities to voice their concerns.”
Sexton stood by the notion after calling the trio’s decision “at least equivalent, maybe worse depending on how you look at it, of doing an insurrection in the Capitol.”
“That wasn’t enough for them,” he said. “They wanted to commandeer the House floor and take it over to lead a protest. That goes against all House rules.”
The clergy group blasted the upcoming expulsion vote as a huge overreaction and political move Wednesday.
“It is ridiculous to think they could be expelled for exercising their First Amendment right and also for standing up for those persons that had them elected in the first place,” Moore said.
Democrats joined that criticism in a press conference laying out their plans for gun legislation Wednesday afternoon.
“Instead of us having meaningful conversations, we’ve been distracted with an expulsion of some of our members who we’re speaking out for exactly what the people across the state are begging for us to do and that’s action,” Rep. Bob Freeman (D-Nashville) said.
Thursday is expected to see hundreds—if not thousands—protest.
The expulsion vote is expected to be close to or along party lines. If that happens, it’ll be the first time since the 1800s—and possibly ever—that a vote to expel was not bipartisan.