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An update from Nashville
Young people have filled every floor of the Capitol building to protest votes to expel Democratic representatives
On Monday, students flooded the streets of Nashville and filled the Tennessee state Capitol — exactly one week after the shooting at The Covenant School that left three nine-year-olds and three adults dead.
At the time, Ezri Tyler — a 19-year-old freshman at Vanderbilt University and March For Our Lives organizer who helped orchestrate the walkouts — was at the Capitol protesting for gun safety legislation.
Today, she’s back inside the Capitol, where the Tennessee GOP just voted to expel state Rep. Justin Jones for protesting on the House floor with two other Democratic state representatives — Gloria Johnson and Justin Pearson — in the wake of the shooting. The House voted to expel Johnson, but failed. The House is expected to vote to expel Pearson next.
While the Tennessee Republican Party continues their push, young people are fighting back — unsurprising for anyone who understands the verve of Gen Z.
I checked in with Tyler. Here’s what she had to say:
“We are actively in the house. We have a full coalition of students who have been sitting in for the last 8 hours.”
She said that the Democrats facing expulsion, now known as “The Tennessee Three,” have visited the demonstrators.
“The three have come out a couple times and sung with us. Justin Jones just came out and hugged folks and people were crying as we all chanted together.”
Asked how long they plan to stay, Tyler said, “everyone is staying for as long as it takes.”
“They are limit[ing] us getting water up here, they are delaying the vote, and they have dozens of state troopers in an attempt to intimidate but we won’t leave and we have a coalition of folks from Memphis, Knoxville, and Nashville - during this occupation there has been a continuous rally outside as well. Every floor of the capitol is full of people.”
A bit about the representatives up for expulsion
Jones, who is 27-years-old, and Pearson, who is 28-years-old, are two of the youngest members of the Tennessee state House.
In 2022, Jones told Teen Vogue: “As one of the few young people running for the Tennessee legislature, my campaign is about bringing people power to the people’s house.”
“It is no coincidence that the two youngest Black lawmakers in the state of Tennessee, and one of two women, are on trial today,” Pearson told reporters today.
In an opinion piece for the New York Times, Margaret Renkl writes: As Young People March for Their Lives, Tennessee Crushes Dissent and Overrides Democracy.