By Don Schmitz
In Tennessee, three legislators helped organize and participate in a demonstration by hundreds calling for gun control, chanting and screaming in the halls outside the Senate and House Chambers. Two Democrat lawmakers shut down proceedings in the House when they began yelling through a bullhorn inside the chamber “Power to the people.” Obviously, legislative bodies can’t function this way (which is the goal of the agitators), and every elected official is briefed on the rules of decorum when they take the oath of office.
Appropriately, Rep. Justin Pearson and Rep. Justin Jones were expelled from the legislature, with Rep. Gloria Johnson narrowly escaping expulsion because she didn’t use the bullhorn and only stood next to them.
Predictably, the left is claiming racism because Pearson and Jones are black. Worse, they are claiming that the expulsions are “undemocratic.” Former President Obama tweeted: “What happened in Tennessee is the latest example of a broader erosion of civility and democratic norms. Silencing those who disagree with us is a sign of weakness, not strength, and it won’t lead to progress.” Ironic in that shouting down the legislature with a bullhorn is the quintessential erosion of civility and democratic norms, designed to silence those they disagree with. I thought he was more astute than that.
Not to be outdone President Biden stated, “Rather than debating the merits of the issue, these Republican lawmakers have chosen to punish, silence, and expel duly-elected representatives of the people of Tennessee.” How exactly does anyone debate merits while someone is shouting through a bullhorn? Biden is so supportive of their boorish behavior he invited them to the White House.
This has become du jour in our country. In February 2011, tens of thousands of demonstrators occupied the Wisconsin Capitol for a month, protesting Gov. Scott Walker’s push to strip public employee unions of collective bargaining rights. Was it labeled an “insurrection,” or rightfully identified as illegal and thwarting the legislative process? Some reporters called it an exciting exercise in worker’s rights.
In October 2011, up to 300 protesters occupied the California Capitol rotunda making demands for more funding for education. In 2018 during the Justice Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, 177 shouting protesters were arrested and removed from the U.S. Senate chamber. In 2020 protestors tried storming the Oregon Capitol, demanding an end to COVID restrictions. On Jan. 6, 2021, hundreds of Trump supporters broke into the U.S. Capitol, shutting down Congress and keeping it from certifying the 2020 presidential election. Just last Wednesday protestors were removed from the Colorado legislature chambers for shouting down deliberations.
“The right of the people peaceably to assemble” is enshrined in our First Amendment, but the courts have given injunctions against violence and intimidation. You can’t disrupt the proceedings of legislative bodies and courts. Nevertheless, the rationalizations pundits and politicians utilize to defend these protests is increasingly blatant, honed to a fine art when five months of national riots, arson, and murder in 2020 were characterized by Democrats as “mostly peaceful.” Our outrage, or lack thereof, is usually predicated upon whether we agree with the cause.
The difference in Tennessee is that the disruptive protesters were themselves representatives inside the chamber, a new low of mob anarchy. “Robert’s Rules of Order,” the guide for functional and orderly public meetings utilized by every City Council and legislative body in the country, has clear protocols for speaking and deliberations, and Article XIII 72 specifies that a deliberative Assembly can make and enforce its own laws, and punish offenders, including expelling them.
In 1967, several dozen gun-toting Black Panther militants stormed the California Capitol to protest gun control legislation they viewed as antithetical to the ability of black citizens to protect themselves.
Imagine a scenario today whereupon two white Republican representatives organized a screaming mob of protesters inside our Capitol, then took a bullhorn to shout down the legislature demanding immediate funding for placing armed officers in every school to address gun violence. We are all sickened by these animals murdering our kids, and that would incontrovertibly make a huge difference, yet Democrats have routinely blocked those measures. Conservatives are beyond frustrated by their obstinance, some saying they don’t truly care about our kids, only want to use them to disarm Americans, and have blood on their hands. I would support their cause, but not those mob methods. If they were expelled from the legislature I wouldn’t claim racism, nor intimate violence as CBS anchor John Dickerson did in reaction to the Tennessee expulsions.
Rep. Johnson said, “North Korea has more democracy than we do,” and “it’s terrifying to me that we’re in this march to fascism.” Fascism is defined by intimidation and violence, the very intimidation she practiced in the chamber and the violence of her supporters storming the chamber doors. The fascist march is one she is helping to orchestrate.