The "Tennessee three" — Democratic legislators who were targeted for expulsion from the legislature by its Republican majority Thursday — have diverse backgrounds but a shared history of activism.
The trio — state Reps. Justin Jones, Gloria Johnson and Justin Pearson — were the subjects of expulsion votes Thursday for their conduct during protests against gun violence on the House floor last week.
Republicans booted Jones with 72-25 party line vote. The effort to remove Johnson fell one vote short of the two-thirds majority of all 100 members needed. Pearson was expelled later in the day on a 69-26 vote.
The three had led supporters in chants calling for stricter gun safety measures after a mass shooting at a Nashville school killed six people — including three 9-year-old children — and they used a bullhorn without having been recognized to speak.
House leaders called their actions “an insurrection” and said they had participated in “disorderly behavior” and “did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives.”
House Minority Leader Karen Camper said the three had caused “good trouble,” as called for by the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon who led nonviolent protests in the state.
Here's a look at the three.
Jones, the first of the three to be expelled, was a freshman who represented the Nashville area and was listed as a policy and activism fellow at the John Lewis Center for Social Justice at Fisk University on his House member page, before it was pulled down Thursday.
According to a biography on his campaign website, Jones was born in Oakland, California, and raised by his mother while she put herself through nursing school. He became active in organizing and civil rights in high school, including organizing protests after the death of Trayvon Martin.
His activism grew when he attended Fisk in Tennessee, and he helped organize campaigns for expanded health care and against police brutality.
After the killing of George Floyd, Jones helped organize a 62-day sit-in outside the Tennessee State Capitol, his campaign bio says, adding that he has been arrested over a dozen times for nonviolent protests.
'This is a first in American history,’ says Tennessee state Rep. PearsonApril 6, 202304:35
Pearson, 28, another freshman, represented the Memphis area, where he’d been a community organizer.
The city is also where he was born and raised — the fourth son of five boys born to teenage parents, according to his campaign website.
Like Jones, Pearson says he has been an advocate for social and environmental causes since high school.
He founded Memphis Community Against Pollution and helped lead Year Up, a nonprofit job training organization that focused on social, racial and economic justice, his website said.
‘Keep showing up,’ says Rep. Johnson after failed Tennessee House voteApril 6, 202303:50
Johnson, 60, spent 27 years as a special education teacher and was inspired to get involved in politics during Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, according to her biography.
She moved to Tennessee in the seventh grade after her FBI agent father was transferred to Knoxville following time in Colorado, California and Mississippi.
She first successfully ran for the state House in 2012, and after having spent some time doing organizing for Medicaid expansion in the state, she ran again and won in 2018.