Georgia lawmakers react to expulsion of TN House members over gun violence protest

ATLANTA — At least one of two Tennessee lawmakers expelled from the state legislature after leading a protest against gun violence from the floor of the Tennessee House, says he plans to run again for his seat.

A third Democrat was narrowly spared by a one-vote margin.

A similar case from Georgia’s history may help play a role in that lawmakers run.

Lawmakers say the three Democrats broke Tennessee House rules with their protest.

Emory law professor Fred Smith told Channel 2′s Richard Elliot that it doesn’t appear they were expelled for what they said, just how they said it.

“The Legislature has some degree of discretion when it comes to determining which of its members to expel, especially for conduct that happens on the House floor,” Smith said.

He pointed to one famous incident from Georgia’s House in 1966 involving representative Julian Bond after he sat in the middle of the floor as the House refused to seat him because of his vocal opposition to the Vietnam War.


But the US Supreme Court ruled the House had punished him for what he said, not how he said it -- a violation of his First Amendment rights -- and it ordered the House to seat him.

There have been more recent incidents under the Gold Dome.

Troopers arrested Atlanta Democrat Park Cannon two years ago for banging on Gov. Brian Kemp’s outer door in protest of him signing a controversial elections law.

Late-house speaker David Ralston also ordered state troopers to escort Republican David Clark off the floor for refusing to take his required COVID-19 tests.

“If it happens in Tennessee, it can happen in Georgia,” state Rep. Carl Gilliard said.

Late Friday, Georgia’s Legislative Black Caucus held a virtual news conference condemning the expulsion of the two Tennessee lawmakers and stressed the real losers are the people they represent.

“Two duly elected officials have been robbed and the folks that really lose are the over 150,000 constituents they represent,” state Rep. Al Williams said.

In both those recent Georgia incidents, both Cannon and Clark were allowed back on the floor, and both are still members today.