Opinion: Defend Democracy Against Fascism in Tennessee

As Chair of the Democratic Party of Multnomah County, I applaud the moral courage of Justin Jones, Justin Pearson, and Gloria Johnson in standing up for the safety of Tennessee children. I condemn the expulsion of Justin Jones and Justin Pearson from the Tennessee legislature.

Tennesee statehoues chamber

The Tennessee House of Representatives proposed three resolutions for expulsion linked below:

  1. Justin Jones
  2. Gloria Johnson
  3. Justin Pearson

All three resolutions contain an identical reason for expulsion: 

“Representative _______ and [their] colleagues shouted, pounded on the podium, led chants with citizens in the gallery, and generally engaged in disorderly and disruptive conduct, including refusing to leave the well, sitting on the podium, and utilizing a sign displaying a political message.”

Justin Jones and Justin Pearson are Black and were expelled. Gloria Johnson is White and was not expelled by one vote. 

Plenty of arguments will be made about previous expulsions in legislative bodies to justify this behaviour by the Tennessee Legislature. Even if you think other expulsions were equivalent, “other people have also done bad things,” is an admission of guilt, not a defense. I would explain the hypocrisy of the Tennessee legislature, but Justin Jones did such an amazing job of it that I want to share this video statement with you all here:

The moral question before us now is whether supporting children protesting to stop the number one cause of death among kids justifies a breach of decorum. In my opinion, it clearly does. Republicans in the Tennessee legislature are more comfortable with violence against children than political speech and, apparently, especially political speech by Black people. 

This affects us all as part of a much larger context. Gun rights have traditionally been upheld for White people and denied to others. The second amendment, designed in part to protect the well-regulated right of citizens to bear arms in case of government overreach, is being used to defend the rights of gun owners that align with the Republican party which increasingly espouses and refuses to condemn religious nationalism.

So, what’s next? While the Tennessee legislature can remove representatives, it cannot prevent them from being reappointed nor can it expel them twice for the same reason. In fact, today, the Nashville Metro Council will likely vote to send Rep. Jones back almost immediately. Shelby County will be considering the fate of Rep. Pearson soon. I stand with them and I encourage you to donate to their campaigns:

Justin Pearson

Justin Jones

Gloria Johnson

In solidarity,
Michael Burleson

Video source: Yahoo News.

Photo credits: Justin Jones campaign website, State legislature of Tennessee website.