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Tennessee state House votes to expel 2 Democratic lawmakers after gun control protest

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The Tennessee State House of Representatives is a little smaller today. The Republican-dominated legislature voted to throw out two Democrats. They were among three who protested a mass shooting and called for gun control on the House floor there. The move for a violation of decorum was unusual and prompted chants of shame on you from critics.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Shame on you. Shame on you. Shame on you.

INSKEEP: Now, the Republican House speaker, Cameron Sexton, told reporters he needed to take this step to maintain order.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CAMERON SEXTON: I'm concerned about the House floor following the process and procedures that are laid out that you should follow and not having a protest, as it was described over here, on the House floor.

INSKEEP: Now, elsewhere, Sexton went further, comparing that protest on the House floor to the January 6 insurrection. He said it was equivalent, if not worse. Just a reminder that on January 6, 2021, thousands of people broke into the U.S. Capitol, caused a number of deaths, threatened to hang the vice president, ransacked offices and disrupted the ceremonial counting of a presidential election. In the Tennessee protest, three lawmakers talked out of turn.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The two ousted lawmakers, Justin Pearson and Justin Jones, are both Black. The only Democrat who survived last night's vote was Gloria Johnson. She's white. Pearson addressed this last night. Here's a clip from MSNBC.

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JUSTIN PEARSON: You cannot ignore the racial dynamic of what happened today. Two young, Black lawmakers get expelled, and the one white woman does not. That's a statement in and of itself. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.