Nashville, April 7 (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris flew to Nashville on Friday in a show of support for a Tennessee state attorney fired for demonstrating against the rule-breaking stage for power retained on the state board after the new school shooting.
Republicans who control the Tennessee House of Representatives on Thursday expelled two young black lawmakers who last week led protesters into the House floor when a resolution to remove a white representative came one vote short.
The president has used the national deportations as a rallying cry for gun prevention and racial equality, with three lawmakers targeted as Democrats.
Democrats also opposed the way Republicans exerted their influence in Tennessee and other states where majorities prevail in legislatures.
Republicans are running for Justin Pearson, 28, of Memphis, and Justin Jones, from the Nashville area. Representative Gloria Johnson 60, who joined them in the protest, but unlike the other two refrained from using the megaphone.
Protests for gun reform followed the April 27 shooting at a Nashville school that killed three 9-year-old students and three adults.
“The issue that comes back to these three is that we need leaders who dare to act in public houses and in Washington, DC, in the United States Congress,” Harris told a gathering at Fisk University, a historically Black school. . “Have a mind to act for cowards, do not allow them to argue.”
Republicans have generally rejected restricting access to guns, citing the 2nd Amendment right to own weapons under the US Constitution and saying there should be a focus on mental health and more funding to boost school security.
President Joe Biden spoke separately to the “Tennessee Three” and invited them to the White House, praising them for “taking up arms and standing up for our democratic values.”
Like many states, Tennessee is grappling with questions of political representation and changing demographics ahead of the 2024 presidential election, which could see guns, with abortion and democracy as top issues. Memphis and Nashville are two former slave states in very different locations.
With a 75-23 majority of Democrats in the House, Tennessee Republicans have taken an unusual way to oust their Democratic colleagues, citing their own mobs in the house-ordered business. Just two state attorneys were expelled before the US Civil War.
Hundreds of protesters flocked to the House to vote, “shame on you” and “no justice, no peace” behind them.
Nearly 50 organizations, which are led by the Newtown Action Coalition for Security Advocacy, on Friday called for a national student walkout in solidarity with those in Tennessee.
Harris urged young people to step up their activism to avoid gun violence, an example of those who joined the original protest last week and returned on Thursday.
“Every generation has a calling,” Harris said. “And so above all to all the young leaders here: This exit will require your leader. … You do not need it.”
Efforts such as Jones and Pearson were replaced under
County legislatures can fill vacancies in the statehouse, at least while special elections are being held.
The Nashville area metropolitan council called a special session on Monday to possibly elect a representative in the interim. The Tennessean newspaper reported that at least 29 members of the board voted 40 times to reinstate Jones. It was not immediately clear when Pearson’s seat would be filled, although that county commission is scheduled to meet Wednesday.
Jones, in an interview on MSNBC on Friday, said it was unclear whether Republicans would prevent the two from reconvening Congress if they were re-elected.
Additional report by Jarrett Renshaw, Daniel Trotta and Katharine Jackson; Writings by Susan Heavey and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Caitlin Webber, Diane Craft, David Gregory, Bill Berkrot and William Mallard
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