Expelled Tennessee State Lawmakers Take Part in Climate Change Protest in DC

Two Tennessee House Democrats took part in a protest outside the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on April 29, as the protest’s organizer is accusing President Joe Biden of committing “ecocide.”

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Reps. Justin Jones (D-Nashville) and Justin Pearson (D-Memphis), who were expelled from the Tennesse General Assembly in early April before they were reinstated, took part in a protest organized by Climate Defiance, a youth-led climate protest group.

“Biden: End Fossil Fuel,” read the words displayed on banners and placards that protesters held on Saturday.

The group alleged Biden is committing “ecocide” because of oil projects he has approved, including the 30-year Willow oil field development project in Alaska, which will produce as much as 180,000 barrels of oil a day.

According to the Vienna-based independent organization the European Law Institute, ecocide is “devastation and destruction of the environment to the detriment of life.”

“Show me what democracy looks like,” Jones said through a megaphone while amongst a group of protesters, according to a Twitter video shared by the group.

Jones added, “We are in a state of emergency in this nation. We are fighting fascism. We’re fighting a system that is trying to put the profits of the gun industry, the profits of the fossil fuel industry, the profits of for-profit health care over the lives of our people.”

In another Twitter video shared by the group, Pearson told the crowd that he was glad to be in this movement.

“We can never lose in this fight for justice,” Pearson said through a megaphone. “We must remain steadfast, unmovable, and unchangeable in our belief that we can have a clean planet.”

The group claimed on Twitter that their protest was a success, for it had successfully blocked a government SUV from entering the Washington Hilton, the hotel where the annual dinner was held.

Biden gave a speech at the dinner, during which he spoke about how a free press is a pillar of any free society.

On March 30, Jones, Pearson, and fellow Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville), now collectively known as the “Tennessee Three,” broke decorum rules by leading hundreds of protesters to the well of the House floor, calling for tighter gun control law. The protest brought the chamber deliberations to a halt.

The protest at the Tennessee state Capitol came just days after a school shooting at Covenant School, a private Christian school in Nashville, which left three nine-year-old children and three school staff members dead.

The Republican-controlled House subsequently voted to expel Jones and Pearson. Johnson was spared after some Republican legislators broke ranks to vote against her expulsion.

Jones and Pearson have since between reinstated on an interim basis by local officials. The two plan to run in special elections in August.

At the Oval Office meeting on April 24, Biden applauded the three visiting state lawmakers.

“You’re standing up for our kids. You’re standing up for our communities—safer communities—and democratic values. That’s what it’s all about,” Biden said.

Biden criticized the GOP-controlled Tennessee legislature, saying its decision to expel was “shocking,” “undemocratic,” and “without any precedent.”

“We passed the most significant gun laws that have passed in 30 years, but there’s more to do,” Biden added. “What happened was that we did—we made background checks and legislation with so-called ‘red flag laws.’”

Vice President Kamala Harris also met with the three state lawmakers when traveling to Nashville earlier this month. However, her trip has drawn criticism for not meeting with the victims of the school shooting.


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