Expelled Tennessee legislators meet Biden at the White House

'Tennessee Three' join US President in the Oval Office to discuss their experiences

From left, Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones, Vice President Kamala Harris, President Joe Biden and Justin Pearson in the Oval Office of the White House. AP
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US President Joe Biden on Monday welcomed three Tennessee Democrats to the White House following historic efforts to expel them from the state legislature they participated in a protest against gun violence.

“You’re standing up for our kids, you’re standing up for our communities,” Mr Biden told state representatives Justin Pearson, Justin Jones and Gloria Johnson during the Oval Office meeting.

Mr Biden personally extended the invitation to Mr Jones, Mr Pearson and Ms Johnson, thanking them for their leadership in leading a gun reform protest that resulted in the expulsion of Mr Jones and Mr Pearson and the near removal of Ms Johnson, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

The “Tennessee Three” were protesting following a shooting at a Nashville Christian school in late March that left six dead, including three children.

Members of the Republican-controlled legislature accused them of disrupting House proceedings.

Flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris, Mr Biden described the expulsion votes as “shocking” and “undemocratic".

“Nothing is guaranteed about our democracy — every generation has to fight for it,” he said.

The move by the legislature caused national outrage and reopened the debate on racism in politics — both Mr Jones and Mr Pearson are black and Ms Johnson, who was not removed, is white.

Mr Pearson and Mr Jones were later reinstated on an interim basis by local officials and they plan to run in a special election to finish their terms, The Washington Post reported.

The state representatives received immediate support from Ms Harris, who unexpectedly travelled to Tennessee to meet them and the state’s Democratic caucus following the expulsion votes.

Following the shooting in Nashville and other cities, Mr Biden renewed his calls for Congress to reinstate a national ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

In a previous interview with news website theGrio, Mr Pearson said he and his Tennessee colleagues were appreciative of the White House’s support.

“What they are showing is that this attack on our democracy is a true threat to our country … But also, this issue of ending gun violence is really important,” he said.

“And if we don’t act, if we allow this to persist, and we allow statehouses across the country to continue to operate in this way, we will continue to see a very terrible erosion of our democracy.”

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: April 25, 2023, 7:05 AM