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Tennessee House Speaker says Dem reps “tried to cause an insurrection” during Thursday’s protests

Tennessee Lookout

The top Republican in Tennessee’s House called Thursday’s protests over gun violence at the Tennessee Capitol an “insurrection,” drawing comparisons to the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, made the comments during an appearance on the Hal Show on FM 98.7.

“A lot of (Democratic representatives) have been very vocal about what happened on Jan. 6,” Sexton said. “What they did today was at least equivalent, maybe worse, depending on how you look at it of doing an insurrection in the capitol.”

More than a thousand people, including many teenagers, showed up to the Tennessee Capitol Thursday to protest and call for lawmakers to address gun violence after six were killed — including three elementary-age students — in a mass shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville.

Protesters started their rally in front of the State Capitol at War Memorial Plaza at 8 a.m. They then proceeded to the Capitol shortly afterward, entering in an orderly manner and passing through a security point operated by Tennessee State Troopers.

Sexton’s comments refer to Reps. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, Gloria Johnson, R-Knoxville, and Justin Pearson, D-Memphis. After a bill on school vouchers, the three took over the speaking podium in the House, using a megaphone to lead chants with a large crowd that gathered in the public viewing area.

This led to a 45-minute recess, where Democratic leaders called for the three to stop and huddled with Republican leaders on what actions to take next.

Republicans speculated the trio was trying to get expelled from the House floor, while Democratic leaders called what they did “good trouble” when speaking to the media afterward.

After the disruption, the House gaveled back in and continued as if nothing had happened, although some disagreements surfaced.

Sexton told reporters the three would face consequences, including the stripping of committee assignments or expulsion from the state House.

Video shows troopers pushing protesters to a clear path to bathroom

Video of Thursday’s protest showed state troopers pushing through protesters to allow Rep. Paul Sherrell, R-Sparta, to exit a bathroom. The troopers appeared to move three young individuals locking arms to block the exit. Sherrell can be seen holding troopers as they surround him, escorting him back to the House chamber.

During the protest, state troopers attempted to keep clear paths between the House chamber, Senate chamber, elevators, bathrooms and exits.

Protesters were eventually banned from the Senate and House viewing areas after they disrupted proceedings with chants of “shame on you” and “children are dead, and you don’t care.”

By about 1 p.m., most protesters had left the Capitol, and the House wrapped up its session by 1:45 p.m. with only a dozen or so left.

House Democrats will hold a press conference to address Thursday’s events later today.

The Lookout reached out to Tennessee State Troopers to see if anyone had been arrested but had not heard back at the time of publication.

The publication also reached out to Sexton’s office for comment.

This is an ongoing story.

This article was originally published by The Tennessee Lookout.

Adam Friedman is a reporter with the Tennessee Lookout. He has a particular love for data and using numbers to explain all kinds of topics. If you have a story idea, he'd love to hear it. Email him at or call him at 615-249-8509.
Sam Stockard is a veteran Tennessee reporter and editor with the Tennessee Lookout, having written for the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, where he served as lead editor when the paper won an award for being the state's best Sunday newspaper two years in a row. He has led the Capitol Hill bureau for The Daily Memphian. His awards include Best Single Editorial from the Tennessee Press Association.
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