Tennessee State Rep. Justin Jones decried the “authoritarianism” of House Republicans on Monday after they voted to silence him for the remainder of the day’s floor session, using newly enacted chamber rules aimed at shutting down members who are deemed out of order.
The Tennessee House’s GOP supermajority barred Jones (D-52) — a member of the so-called ” Tennessee Three” — from speaking for the rest of Monday’s special session after House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-25) ruled that the Democratic lawmaker violated the new rules.
According to The Associated Press, “Jones had been criticizing legislation that would have allowed more law enforcement officers in schools and began listing other resources that the state should be providing.”
“What our schools need are mental health professionals,” Jones said. “We need funding for mental health, for counselors. We need to pay our teachers better. We don’t need more police in our schools.”
The GOP’s vote to silence Jones sparked fury in the chamber, with Democrats arguing that Sexton is selectively wielding the new rules to target outspoken gun control proponents.
Republicans voted to expel Jones from the House in April after he took to the House floor with a bullhorn to demand action to curb gun violence. The Democrat was reinstated days later and easily won reelection earlier this month.
Jones’ fellow Democrats walked off the floor with him following Monday’s vote. The Tennessean reported that “Republican lawmakers attempted to get the House floor session back on track after the Democrats left, as members of the gallery above erupted in anger with yells of ‘racists’ and ‘fascists.'”
“Chants only grew louder as state troopers began swarming the gallery to clear it,” the newspaper continued. “Demonstrators stayed in their seats as troopers began asking them to leave, but slowly cleared out into the halls to continue chanting.”
In a video posted to social media following the walkout, Jones said that “what’s happening is not democratic, it is authoritarianism.”
“The Capitol is surrounded by troopers,” said Jones. “This does not look like a democratic body.”
Just left the House Chamber after Speaker Sexton forced a vote to silence me for the remainder of the legislative day (for speaking “off topic”) and ordered the public cleared out of the gallery.— Rep. Justin Jones (@brotherjones_) August 28, 2023
This is the authoritarianism we are fighting against. pic.twitter.com/xfDAh9DpmI
Earlier in the day, Jones announced plans to call for a no-confidence vote against Sexton, citing the Republican leader’s alleged misuse of taxpayer funds and other abuses of authority.
Before he was silenced by the Republican supermajority, Jones had intended to introduce his proposal at the end of Monday’s session, which marked the start of the second week of a special session aimed at responding to the deadly shooting at Covenant School in Nashville earlier this year.
“The House must perform its duty to hold the speaker to account and exercise an internal check on power,” Jones wrote in a letter to his colleagues. “At a time of record low approval ratings for the Legislature, this is not just a vote of no confidence in the speaker but a vote to restore confidence in this body with the people of Tennessee.”
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