Tennessee Republican Representative Justin Lafferty—who once valorized the three-fifths compromise—reportedly shoved Black Tennessee Representative Justin Jones on the floor of the statehouse Monday night. Jones and two other Democratic lawmakers currently face threats of expulsion from the legislature for breaking “decorum” by interrupting proceedings to advocate for students protesting gun violence. The world waits with bated breath to see if Lafferty’s actions also qualify as breaking decorum.
Jones captured the moment on video where Lafferty seems to have shoved him.
The shove came amid an escalation by state Republicans to silence and ignore not only their fellow lawmakers but also thousands of residents demanding action so children stop being killed at school.
On Monday, thousands of Tennessee students, parents, and residents descended upon the state Capitol for the second time in the week since the mass shooting at a school in Nashville that left three children and three adults dead. The monumental crowd of people marched to the state Capitol building, leading chants and singing songs, with one student simply saying, “We all just want to live through high school.”
Children in grade school and even younger were seen in full force, shaming Tennessee Republicans for their inaction, a week after students just like them were shot dead at school.
On Monday evening, as protesters entered the chamber, chanting from the gallery and demanding lawmakers’ attention, Lafferty and Jones both began recording the scene on their phones. Lafferty then turned toward Jones and appeared to shove the Democrat. A voice is heard in Jones’s video saying, “Hey, get your hands off me.”
Before shoving a fellow lawmaker on the House floor, Lafferty was perhaps best known for falsely suggesting that the three-fifths compromise—which allowed slaveholding states to count 60 percent of their slave populations in order to gain more representation in Congress, while not giving enslaved people any rights—was somehow an effort to end slavery, rather than to uphold it.
Jones and fellow Democrats Justin Pearson and Gloria Johnson have been especially invested in standing alongside the thousands demanding action. Now Tennessee Republicans are pushing to punish them, on the basis that the trio walked up to the well of the House during last Thursday’s protest, which violated “rules of decorum.”
The trio say they did so only after being repeatedly silenced by House Speaker Cameron Sexton; the Democrats’ mics were allegedly cut off throughout the week whenever they tried to speak about gun violence or about the thousands protesting right outside the building. Sexton had the gall to call the trio’s actions an “insurrection.”
Jones accused Sexton of spending “more time on Twitter this weekend talking about a fake insurrection than he did about the deaths of six people including 9-year-old children.”
Sexton’s former caucus member, Republican Representative Terri Lynn Weaver, attended an actual insurrection: January 6, which she called an “epic and historic day gathering with fellow Patriots from all over the nation.” Weaver was not expelled from the Tennessee state legislature.