To the Editor:
I express my heartfelt solidarity with Tennessee State Representatives Justin Pearson and Justin Jones who were expelled yesterday. As one of the youngest legislators in Connecticut, I find the decision to be a grave injustice against the principles that our country upholds and serves as a warning to all of us.
Like me, these Black men are the youngest legislators in their General Assembly. They committed the crime of participating in a peaceful protest for passage of gun safety legislation, hardly grounds for expulsion by their colleagues.
These young leaders stand with the people they represent and yearn for a world where children and our educators are free from gun violence. These lawmakers and the thousands of students should be commended for demanding that the Tennessee General Assembly take action to pass gun safety laws in the aftermath of the deadly Covenant School shootings.
To be clear, the good Representatives were expelled for their dissenting views and opinions during the House floor procedure, which was supposed to be a democratic process. It is alarming to see that their free expression was met with such punitive action, especially at a time when civil liberties are facing unprecedented challenges.
I strongly believe in the freedom of speech and the importance of representing the people’s voice without fear or favor. The actions taken by the Tennessee House of Representatives undermine this principle and will be perceived as a provocation against democratic values.
In response to the recent events, I urge every state legislator to be intentional in their efforts to pursue justice and equality for all. It is time to take a firm position for what we believe in and defend our fundamental rights against those who crave to suppress us.
I hope that our collective voice will be heard loud and clear, and that we can continue to foster a society that respects differences and welcomes open discourse. We must be unapologetic as we seek justice for the victims of gun violence, transphobia, and racism.
The courage of Representatives Pearson and Jones, and the tyranny of the Tennessee House of Representatives, serves as an inflection point for state legislatures across America. Together, we must reflect on these events and work together with our colleagues to better the lives of the children, families, and constituents that we represent each day in our elected bodies.
Aundré Bumgardner is serving his second non-consecutive term as the State Representative of the 41st House District, proudly representing the people of Groton, Mystic, and Stonington in the Connecticut General Assembly. He serves as Assistant Majority Leader as Secretary of the Black & Puerto Rican Caucus.
Bumgardner is state representative for Groton and Stonington