WASHINGTON – American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley today issued the following statement in response to the expulsion of two Black Democratic lawmakers from the Republican-led Tennessee state legislature for their participation in a protest on the floor of the Tennessee House of Representatives following the deadly school shooting in Nashville:
“Yesterday’s partisan expulsion of two Black representatives, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, for protesting on the floor of the Tennessee House the lack of action following a deadly shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville is inexcusable, inconsistent with the law, and a dangerous precedent.
“In a clear racial double-standard, the partisan majority delivered a disparate, harsher treatment to the two Black representatives than the white representative who participated in the same protest. Although let’s be clear – no lawmaker of any race should be punished for standing up for their principles.
“Not only is the idea of punishing elected representatives for demanding legislative action on issues affecting their communities shockingly anti-democratic, but it is also inconsistent with a Supreme Court decision preventing the Georgia House from refusing to seat civil rights leader Julian Bond in 1965. In that case, the Supreme Court wrote that ‘legislators have an obligation to take positions on controversial political questions so that their constituents can be fully informed by them and be better able to assess their qualification for office; also so that they may be represented in government debates by the person they have elected to represent them.’
“When majorities like those in the Tennessee House become tyrannical – using their power to stifle free expression, punish those who express unpopular opinions, and trample on the rights of the minority – these same lawmakers threaten our democracy.
“As we condemn these actions in the strongest possible terms, our hearts remain with the Nashville community still reeling from the recent tragedy.”