Bay Area native among the Tennessee lawmakers ousted for protesting

Vice-President Kamala Harris met Friday with the two young lawmakers Justin Pearson and Justin Jones, one day after they were expelled from the Tennessee state house.

Pearson and Justin raised their fists and greeted their supporters, who cheered as they walked through campus of Fisk University to meet the vice-president.

Jones is a Bay Area native who grew up in Hercules.

The two young men and one fellow lawmaker Gloria Johnson were accused of "mutiny" by Republicans, after the so-called "Tennessee Three" joined in a March 30 protest using bullhorns in the statehouse and breaking protocol to call for gun control legislation after a school shooting.

"We have rules, we have decorum, we have process, we have procedures. Imagine if that happened on the congressional floor during his State of the Union address," said Republican Cameron Sexton, Tennessee's House Speaker.

The Tennessee black caucus Friday blasted Republicans, noting expulsion is usually reserved to address issues such as extreme ethics breaches.

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They also noted that Pearson and Jones were both expelled while Johnson, who is Caucasian, was not ousted.

"I don't have to say a word about the fact that our two young African-American brothers were unfairly prosecuted," said Tennessee State Representative Sam McKenzie, a Democrat and Chairman of the Black Caucus, "It's a horrific indictment on the Tennessee GOP, and they ought to be ashamed of themselves."

"One of the key things to remember is that there are established processes for violations of ethical rules. And one question is why those processes were sidestepped here," said Larry Rosenthal program director for UC Berkeley's Center for Civility and Democratic Engagement, "This action by that majority went right to expulsion."

Rosenthal says Tennessee is an example of how deep political divisions in the nation right now, can lead to a breakdown of civility, communication, and compromise.

"There is a new playing field, which is more about fighting than settling, more about yelling, than speaking and listening," said Rosenthal.

Rosanthal says demonizing those with different viewpoints will not move the nation forward.

"A lot of people are on essentially a warlike footing relative to their politics, and we're seeing that embattlement, those lines being drawn, and this brings with it a certain level of disrespect and outright mistreatment of people," said Rosenthal.

Rosanthal adds that Tennessee Republicans' ouster of Pearson and Jones might have fulfilled a desire to make a dramatic point, but in the end, might be ineffective.

Both Pearson and Jones say they intend to run again for their seats.