Tennessee special session ends with confrontation, yelling

A special session of the Tennessee General Assembly ended Tuesday with shouting from the gallery and a confrontation between the Republican House Speaker and one of the Democratic lawmakers known as the “Tennessee Three” on the House floor.

The House’s decision to adjourn the special session without any significant gun safety legislation — after the session was called in response to a March shooting at a Nashville elementary school that left six people dead — led to outcries from members of the public in the gallery overlooking the chamber.

As lawmakers left the House floor to chants of “vote them out,” Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Democratic Rep. Justin Pearson appeared to have a brief physical confrontation, leading other members to rush forward and separate the two, according to videos of the incident.

Democratic Rep. Justin Jones also later took to the podium to bang the Speaker’s gavel and shouted, “This House is out of order.”

Pearson and Jones are both members of the “Tennessee Three,” a trio of House Democratic lawmakers who Republicans sought to expel from the chamber earlier this year for interrupting House proceedings to protest for gun control.

While Pearson and Jones, who are Black, were both expelled, their white colleague, Rep. Gloria Johnson, was not. Both lawmakers ultimately won back their seats in the Tennessee House earlier this month.

House Republicans voted to silence Jones during the special session Monday, after determining that he had breached the chamber’s newly adopted rules by straying off topic from the bill being debated. 

Jones had announced earlier Monday that he was planning to call for a vote of no confidence in Sexton “due to his continued abuse of power and dishonor to the public office he holds.”

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