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Gun Control Advocates Who Occupied Tennessee Capitol Will Not Face Charges

House Republicans have filed to expel three Democrats who lead a protest on the chamber's floor

Protestors who occupied the Tennessee capitol in the wake of The Covenant School shooting are not being investigated and will not face charges.

Over a thousand pro-gun regulation protestors who showed up at the Capitol building on March 30 were encouraged by three Democratic lawmakers to storm the floor of the Tennessee House and disrupt the legislative session.

“There were no arrests made on Thursday,” TDSHS communications director Wesley Moster told The Tennessee Star on April 3. “There are no investigations or criminal charges pending.”

The protestors occupied the Capitol’s rotunda, chanting “Do you even care?” and “No more violence!” and holding signs demanding increased restrictions on guns, per Reuters

Tennessee Highway State Troopers, who are responsible for guarding the capitol, were seen clearing pathways for lawmakers attempting to cross the building. At one point, officers were involved in a physical altercation with protestors, but were ultimately able to stop the breach.

“The riot began after students walked out of school in protest over gun control,” reported The Star. “Those students were responding to the mass shooting by 28-year-old Audrey Elizabeth Hale, who identified as transgender.”

The majority of the protestors are believed to be under 30 years old. 

State Representatives Justin Jones, Justin Pearson, and Gloria Johnson led the protest on the floor of the House around 10:50 am. Amid a vote on a bill regarding Tennessee’s education savings account program, Jones complained to Speaker Cameron Sexton, who told Jones he was out of order and called for a five-minute recess. As lawmakers moved to huddle with their parties, Sexton, Pearson, and Johnson went to the podium with a megaphone and began chanting “Gun control now!” Supporters seated in the balcony joined the chant. 

Tennessee House Republicans filed to expel the three Democrats on April 3. The resolution states the representatives participated in “disorderly behavior” and “did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives.” The House will vote on the resolution on April 6.

The resolution’s submission prompted protests from onlookers in the gallery. The protest became so loud Speaker Sexton ordered state troopers to remove them from the chamber. 

“Jones later accused another member of stealing his phone and trying to ‘incite a riot with his fellow members,’” reports NBC News. “Sexton deemed Jones out of order and cut off Jones’ microphone.”

Six people, including three children, died as a result of Hale’s attack on the private Christian school. Police in Nashville have told the media that the school, which is part of the Covenant Presbyterian Church with approximately 200 students, was pre-selected by Hale but the victims were randomly selected.

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