By: Christian Haag
April 17 2023
Comparing the Nashville protest to the January 6 insurrection is a false equivalence and no protestors reached the house floor.
Following the Covenant school shooting in Nashville, on March 27, 2023, protests were held at the Tennessee capitol on Mach 30 to demand stricter gun control laws. During the protest, three Democratic legislators – Justin Jones, Justin Pearson, and Gloria Johnson –joined the protest, leading chants from the house floor, which disrupted the proceedings. After the protest, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were expelled from their representative seats for their involvement in the demonstration.
In an appearance on the Hallerin Hilton Hill radio show on March 31, House Speaker Cameron Sexton claimed that the Nashville protest was equivalent to, or worse than, the January 6, 2021 insurrection in Washington, DC. Sexton later clarified his comment, claiming that he meant the three legislators, not the protestors in general. In the aftermath, some Republican legislators and conservative media personalities claimed that the protesters were insurrectionists and had reached the house floor. However, the claims are false, and a comparison to the January 6 insurrection is a false equivalence.
The Nashville protest saw no arrests, injuries, or property damage. One protestor was removed for blocking a lawmaker's path to the public restroom. Tennesse Highway Patrol, which was in charge of security of the Tennessee capital, confirmed to local newspaper, the Tennessean, that the protest was peaceful. The Tennessean also confirmed that no protestors reached the house floor, a claim that has also been fact-checked by PolitiFact and Newsweek, reaching the same conclusion.
The January 6 insurrection had, by December 2022, resulted in 964 arrests with various charges, including injuring law enforcement officers, destruction and theft of government property, and seditious conspiracy. Consequently, the event has become the largest criminal investigation in the history of the U.S. Justice Department, and led to the second impeachment of Donald Trump for inciting insurrection.
The Nashville protest gathered outside the Tennessee capitol to demand gun law reforms following the 2023 Covenant school shooting. In total, it numbered around 1000 people, some of whom entered the state capitol outside the House and Senate Chambers and the galleries of the House Chamber, after passing through security. As the protest occurred, three house Democrats approached the podium with a bullhorn without being recognized to speak. The now-called “Tennessee Three” – Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, Rep. Justin Pearson, D-Memphis, and Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville – led protestors gathered in the galleries in several chants.
At this point, House Speaker Cameron Sexton ordered a recess and for the galleries to be cleared of protestors. The three were accused of bringing "disorder and dishonor to the House" and stripped of committee assignments. On April 6, two of the three legislators, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, were expelled from the House for “disorderly behavior.” Rep. Justin Jones was reinstated on April 10 by the Nashville District as interim representative until a new election is held, where he will be eligible to run for reelection.
Considering that no arrests, injuries, or property damage occurred and the Tennesse Highway Patrol has confirmed that the protest was peaceful, and the claim that protestors reached the house floor has been refuted, we have marked this claim as false.