Tennessee state Representatives Justin Pearson and Justin Jones, both Democrats, have led yet another takeover of the state Capitol in Nashville less than two weeks after they were expelled from the state House for instigating a previous mob takeover. They were both subsequently reinstated.
On Monday, Pearson and Jones joined dozens of protesters, many of whom appeared to be clergy members, to demand more gun control legislation in the wake of the shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville on March 27. The House was set to vote on a measure that would allow some teachers to have access to firearms in the classroom, but the bill has been pulled from the calendar. With the state Senate Judiciary Committee already adjourned for the session, the legislature is unlikely to vote on the measure before the summer.
The members of the public who were present in the gallery overwhelmingly opposed arming teachers, and they booed loudly and demanded that representatives stay and "do [their] jobs" after the House announced that it would go into recess before voting on the measure.
Though the measure appears to be tabled for the moment, Pearson, Jones, and their fellow protesters seem committed to ongoing activism. "We need people to keep showing," Jones told a crowd that had gathered in a stairwell.
Many in that crowd, including Jones and Pearson, had just cornered Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton (R) before he could exit the area. Sexton briefly answered some questions and stated that the House would soon consider other bills regarding guns, though he did not identify any specific bills. He then left.
Jones accused Sexton of running away from the people, and Pearson claimed that Sexton and other Republicans had engaged in "anti-democratic behavior" by continuing to consider legislation that would arm teachers. Rep. Jones characterized the mob rule that had just overwhelmed Speaker Sexton as the "power of the people."
Earlier in the evening, Pearson, Jones, and the protesters also staged a sit-in like those of the civil rights era. Together, they even sang songs from the civil rights era, including "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around," while people took turns hoisting a small casket, likely representing the children who have died by gun violence.
As representatives began filing out of the gallery, the activists began chanting and shouting various slogans, including "More guns, more death, tell the truth," "You lied, we died," and "Whose House? Our House!" Law enforcement officers also stood guard in the hallway to prevent the crowd from engaging in violence.
According to Rep. Jones, he and other anti-Second Amendment leaders intend to reconvene at the Capitol on Wednesday morning to exert more pressure on Republicans to cave on gun control legislation. "Our movement is non-violent," Jones claimed. "With that power of love and justice, it's something they cannot stand up to."
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