Local civil rights leaders and supporters gathered Wednesday in Annapolis to denounce the recent expulsion of two Black representatives from the Tennessee legislature, a move they described as one of the “most anti-democratic acts in a democratic nation” in recent memory.
Late last month, hundreds of protestors gathered in Nashville after a Christian school shooting left three 9-year-old students and three adults dead. During the action, Tennessee representatives Justin Jones, Justin Pearson and Gloria Johnson disrupted House proceedings and led chants on the floor pushing for gun control regulations.
Jones and Pearson were expelled five days later in overwhelming majority votes, while Johnson retained her seat by a single vote. Johnson told CNN it was “pretty clear” she survived the motion because she is white and Jones and Pearson are Black. As of Wednesday afternoon, both expelled legislators have been reinstated and “The Tennessee Three,” as they are being referred to publicly, will all return to service.
Even so, the Rev. Rickey Nelson Jones, NAACP president for Anne Arundel County, said what happened in Tennessee was “extremely disturbing to anybody who loves democracy.”
“They were saying, in no uncertain terms, that the vote of the people does not matter, what extreme politicians say matters,” Jones said. “These people basically have trashed what democracy is all about at its core because they want to have their way.”
About two dozen protestors stood on the steps of the Maryland State House Wednesday afternoon, less than two days after the General Assembly signed off on its final bills this year.
Carl Snowden, convener for the Caucus of African American Leaders of Anne Arundel County, told those present that what happened in Tennessee was not an isolated incident.
Snowden condemned the treatment Monday of Del. Adrienne Jones, the first Black person and first woman to serve as speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, in the final minutes of the 2023 legislative session.
The Morning Sun
Del. Nic Kipke, an Anne Arundel County Republican, raised his voice at Jones while debating a bill that would prohibit police from searching a vehicle based solely on the scent of marijuana. With the legislature’s mandated adjournment only a few minutes away, Jones prevented Republicans from explaining their votes, which angered Kipke. The Republican pointed his finger at Jones and told her to “sit down.”
In an interview Tuesday with the Baltimore Sun, Kipke said he had reached out to Jones to “ensure her of my respect” but clarified that he doesn’t regret the way that Monday night unfolded.
Jones issued a statement saying she felt Kipke’s apology was “genuine.”
Snowden called Kipke’s actions a “step across the line” and said Wednesday’s protest was meant to “make it crystal clear that although an apology has been given...that type of behavior will not be tolerated.”
House Bill 1071 eventually passed the chamber in a 101-36 vote and has been sent to Gov. Wes Moore for consideration.