MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Van Turner, the president of the Memphis NAACP branch is speaking out after two Democrats were expelled from the Tennessee House of Representatives.

Democrats Justin Jones of Nashville and Justin J. Pearson of Memphis were expelled after protesting for stricter gun laws following a shooting at a Nashville school.

The third house member Representative Gloria Johnson of Knoxville also engaged in the protest but was saved from expulsion by one vote.

“It was discriminatory, it was un-American, it was a violation of the first amendment and the Tennessee General Assembly should be held accountable,” Turner said. “It’s a political lynching.”

Derrick Johnson, national NAACP president and CEO, also condemned the decision and applauded both Rep. Jones and Rep. Pearson for their courage to stand up for democracy:

“While what happened in the Tennessee legislature yesterday is horrific, it is not surprising. Extremist legislators, funded by corporate interests, have a history of undermining our democracy and failing to protect their constituents – especially in the South. The fact of the matter is, these so-called ‘leaders’ would rather line their pockets than uphold their sworn oaths. 

The NAACP commends Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, who had the courage to stand up and have a sensible conversation about their communities’ policy needs. It is inexcusable that, while they upheld their oath to serve Tennesseans who are grieving the loss of last week’s mass murder, their colleagues decided to use racial tropes to divert attention from their failure to protect the people they are supposed to serve. We will continue to stand with these champions of democracy, and are prepared to take whatever legal action is necessary to ensure that this heinous attempt to silence the voice of the people is addressed in a court of law.”

The Tennessee House GOP released the following statement:

“This body has determined formal expulsion for two of its members is the only path forward after they led disrespectful and deliberate efforts to disrupt the business of the House on March 30th. Their behavior violated multiple permanent rules of order, in addition to state law.”

Tuner says the local and national chapter of the NAACP will take action due to the expulsions being “unlawful” and “discriminatory”, also noting that Johnson, who is white, did not get expelled.

“It’s just a bald-faced lie,” Turner said. “You can’t sit here and tell me that protocol was violated yet you keep one person that apparently violated the same protocol that the two black male representatives violated.”

Pearson says he understands he broke house decorum rules but finds expulsion to be “an egregious use of power to silence them and to abridge their First Amendment rights”.

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“This is undemocratic. This is wrong. This is the perpetuation of patriarchy and white supremacy. This is what we knew we were up against, and the people of Memphis and Shelby County still want change. So, we’re going to continue to still demand change.”

With Pearson out, thousands of people in Shelby County are left without a voice on the House floor.

Turner says he is calling on Shelby County Commissioners to reinstate Pearson.

As of now, the Board has not made a comment on the matter.