MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG) — Democrat State Representative Justin J. Pearson is contemplating whether or not to press charges against Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton after a scuffle occurred following the special session Tuesday.
Intense chants mixed passion and protest on the House floor were a special recipe for disaster as the special session on public safety ended for the Tennessee General Assembly Tuesday, leading to a physical showdown caught on camera between Speaker Sexton and Rep. Pearson.
“While I was saying to the Speaker that we are not doing enough, while I was saying that this is shameful and a disgrace to the people in the state of Tennessee, that we are tired of going to funerals, the Speaker violently shoved me in the chest,” Pearson said. “And then other members of his party also pushed me back towards the clerk’s desk.”
Pearson and Representative Justin Jones were seen following Sexton while holding signs and Pearson appears to try to get in Sexton’s face. Then there is a lot of shoving. It’s hard to tell who shoved first. Sexton then turned around waving his finger as Pearson was being pushed back.
“I told him don’t bump me,” Sexton said. “My security put their hands on the back which knocked me forward and the photographer when you look at it was to my left so we moved right. At that point, we moved right and Rep. Pearson comes in and pops me from the right side.”
But Pearson recalls something different.
“The speaker had the audacity to turn around and tell me don’t touch him despite the fact that he initiated this aggressive act toward me,” he said. “It’s the aggressive attitude of white supremacy that permeates this institution that leads to policy violence and now physical violence against its members.”
Both men were quickly separated.
According to communications director Daphne Thomas, Pearson is discussing his options of legal action with an attorney.
Tensions were high between both parties during the session as Republican lawmakers refused to pass legislation that would put restrictions on guns in the state. The session ended Tuesday before Rep. Jones could officially call a vote of no confidence against Speaker Sexton.
Despite the dysfunction, Govenor Bill Lee said the special session wasn’t a complete failure with the passing of four bills.
“I believe it was hopeful. It was difficult as I said. It was important, but important, difficult and hopeful those are things. We should celebrate,” Lee said.
Pearson said nearly $1 million was likely spent on this special session, mainly due to the number of state troopers needed to secure the capitol.
“I am frustrated. I am angry. I am disappointed in the actions of Cameron Sexton and William Lamberth and the governor who refused to actually listen to the voices of the people,” Pearson said.