Both expelled and reinstated Tennessee State Representatives Justin Pearson and Justin Jones participated in a rally in the Tennessee State House in Nashville for gun control Monday evening led by Rev. Dr. William Barber. Hundreds of protesters shouted at Republican State Reps as they left the chamber for the evening.
“Tell the truth!” they chanted. “More, guns, more death!”
“Whose house? Our house!”
The gallery overlooking the Tennessee House floor erupted in boos and shouting as the legislature announced that they would go into recess right before the bill making it easier to arm teachers, which is what the protesters were there to oppose.
Tennessee Speaker Cameron Sexton was confronted by the gun control protesters, which included several clergy, as he left.
“Let him hear you!” said Rep Pearson, pointing the activists in Sexton’s direction.
Sexton said that “I think we have some bills coming up… there’s other bills coming,” when asked what he’d do about gun violence. Some yelled at him accusations of not living in his district as he walked away.
“Do something! Do something!” the crowd chanted.
“How’s he the speaker, and he ain’t speaking?” one woman asked.
Rep Jones said that “The speaker chose not to talk to the people.”
After most reps left, Rep Pearson told the crowd that they witnessed “anti-democratic behavior” from the Republicans and invited participants to speak about their own experiences with gun violence.
“We need people to keep showing, because there’s power in the fact that the speaker ran away,” said Rep Jones. “That’s power of the people.”
“Our movement is non-violent. With that power of love and justice, it’s something they cannot stand up to.”
Ahead of the rally
Ahead of demonstrations for gun control Monday night at the Tennessee State House, Dr. Rev. William Barber spoke to clergy and gun control advocates at the McKendree United Methodist Church about non-violent tactics, the possibility of getting arrested, and what he views as “policy violence” in government.
Dr. Rev. William Barber led a march from the McKendree United Methodist Church to the State House where advocates and impacted families spoke out.
Tears were audible in the crowd Monday as Sarah Shoop Neumann, the mother of a student at the Covenant school where three students and three adults were murdered last week, spoke out outside the Tennessee State House.
She describes the horrific experience of witnessing a fellow mother at the reunification site learning that her child didn’t survive.
“I worked in pediatric oncology for 13 years. I held kids in my arms dying many times, she explained. “Nothing compares to the scream of that mom.”
“Third graders saw the dead bodies of their friends, not just coffins,” she said. “They saw where those bodies laid and where it happened. The trauma won’t leave us or our children.”
She says her five-year-old is still afraid another shooter could come.