KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Former President Barack Obama took to social media late Thursday calling the Tennessee House of Representative’s actions to expel two of three Democratic lawmakers facing expulsion “the latest example of a broader erosion of civility and democratic norms.”
“This nation was built on peaceful protest. No elected official should lose their job simply for raising their voice – especially when they’re doing it on behalf of our children,” Obama tweeted. “What happened in Tennessee is the latest example of a broader erosion of civility and democratic norms. Silencing those who disagree with us is a sign of weakness, not strength, and it won’t lead to progress.”
On Thursday, members in the Tennessee House voted to expel Rep. Justin Pearson (D-Memphis) and Rep. Justin Jones (D-Nashville) citing they broke several House decorum rules and protesting for gun control measures in Tennessee.
A third Democratic lawmaker who was facing expulsion, Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) remains in her seat in the House after the vote to expel her failed by one vote.
Following Obama’s tweet which has garnered millions of views, Johnson quote-tweeted, stating:
“This is spot on, thank you @BarackObama!”
Later Friday when asked in an interview with WATE 6 On Your Side about her response to the former president’s tweet thread, Johnson said it was an issue of democracy.
“This is what is terrifying to me about what the super-majority did: By trying to expel us, for a minor infraction – and then we find out going to the well without permission doesn’t even break a House rule,” Johnson said. “… This is something that was minor, it was during recess, and they went to the most-extreme consequence. That shows you when absolute power corrupts absolutely. But they did that because they have the super-majority, they have the votes, and they’re going to roll over the top of the citizens, the opposition party, all of that.”
Thursday night in Nashville after House Speaker Cameron Sexton said the resolution to expel Johnson failed, the gallery erupted with applause and began chanting Gloria’s name. Sexton swiftly bangled the gavel and told the gallery that they were out of order.
Before Johnson, the resolution against Jones passed, expelling him. He was also surrounded by the Democratic Caucus during his closing statements. During the hearing of the resolution, the debate on the floor was heated, with Rep. John Ray Clemmons asking “Is this a circus?”
“The people are still demanding action for common sense gun laws, that a week after a mass shooting, the immediate response of my colleagues was not to pass an assault weapons ban or red flag laws, but its to expel their colleague who is demanding that we act, and whether I’m a member on the inside or a community member on the outside, I will continue to stand with the people because this is not the end,” Jones told WKRN News 2’s Chris O’Brien after the vote.
The resolution against Pearson also passed, expelling him. From a video posted by WKRN’s Chris O’Brien, those who support Pearson were chanting “Shame of you!” after the vote.
Reporting by WATE’s Hope McAlee, WKRN’s Sebastian Posey and Erin McCullough contributed to this report.