JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — A Tri-Cities NAACP leader is speaking out on the expulsion of Democratic Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson from the Tennessee House of Representatives.
Rayford Johnson, who serves as president of the Johnson City Washington County chapter of the national civil rights organization, said the failure of the legislature to also expel Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) is a sign of inequity.
“Why didn’t they punish all three?” Johnson said. “That’s injustice. That’s, that’s not fair. And that is not the true representative representation of Tennessee. That’s not who we are as people.”
He agrees with Rep. Johnson’s assessment, given just after she survived her vote.
“It might have something to do with the color of my skin,” Johnson said to press at the state house.
Rep. John Holsclaw (R-Elizabethton) rejected that the decisions were racially motivated, pointing out that some Republicans broke rank to support the “Tennessee Three.”
“There isn’t a racist bone in my body,” Holsclaw told News Channel 11.
He said Jones and Pearson were disruptive throughout the session, not just during the protest they were expelled for leading from the House floor.
“All they want to do is holler racist, you’re racist,” said Holsclaw.
Rayford Johnson said he sees a silver lining in what happened Thursday in Nashville — the vote exposed racism in state government.
“We can’t sweep it under the rug,” said Johnson. “Because here’s a blatant example, that’s happening at the state House here in Tennessee, that is clearly unfair. And it’s racist.”
Johnson hopes the controversy can turn into a conversation about the issues facing Black Tennesseans.
“I wanted to extend the olive branch to our representatives and say, can we have a conversation? Because you’re there to represent me,” said Johnson.