Tennessee Dem lawmaker decries response to riots in viral speech: ‘What we see is not peaceful’

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A Tennessee state representative called out politicians’ response to violence and property destruction taking hold in U.S. cities, saying rioters are “emboldened because we act like a bunch of punks — too frightened to stand up and protect our own stuff.”

State Rep. John J. DeBerry, Jr., a longtime Memphis Democrat, made the passionate speech on the floor of the Tennessee State Legislature earlier this month where he urged lawmakers to have “guts” and denounce the violent unrest. His words are still resonating on social media, as more violence and arson broke out in Kenosha, Wis., this week following the shooting of Jacob Blake on Sunday.

“Peaceful protests end peacefully. Anarchy ends in chaos. And what we see happening right now — any of us with any common sense whatsoever know that what we see is not peaceful,” DeBerry said.

DeBerry admonished efforts to “frost” over the destruction and attacks on law enforcement with nice rhetoric instead of calling out the clashes as “frightening.”

Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis, left, speaks during the debate to override Gov. Bill Haslam's veto of a bill seeking to make the Bible the state's official book, Wednesday, April 20, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. The House voted not to override the veto. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Rep. John DeBerry, D-Memphis, left, speaks during the debate to override Gov. Bill Haslam’s veto of a bill seeking to make the Bible the state’s official book, Wednesday, April 20, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. The House voted not to override the veto. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
(The Associated Press)

He mentioned the protests in Portland, Detroit and Seattle.

“They’re getting emboldened because we act like a bunch of punks — too frightened to stand up and protect our own stuff,” DeBerry said. “You tell me that somebody’s got the right to tear down property that Tennessee taxpayers paid for? That American taxpayers paid for? Somebody has the right to destroy it, deface it, and tear it down? What kind of people have we become that we can’t protect our own stuff!?”

DeBerry’s monologue drew applause on the House floor.

DeBerry, 69, had been a conservative Democrat until Tennesse Democratic Party officials “blindsided” him earlier this year by removing him from the House District 90 primary ballot for his history of voting with Republicans on issues like abortion and school choice.

“I think that someone decided that the only way that they were going to get me out of office was to remove me from the ballot. So this was what a tribunal did,” DeBerry told Fox News, referring to the state party’s executive committee. “[They] decided my political future and made a declaration that I was not a Democrat.”

DeBerry has been in office for 26 years and will run for reelection as an independent, citing the “outrage” in his district over party bosses’ efforts to oust him.

“I was kind of blindsided because I have run as a Democrat since 1995 and I have won 13 elections as a Democrat,” DeBerry said. “… My views have always been conservative. The people in my district know this. And even though I’ve had opponents who have hammered me over and over about my stance on abortion, about my stance on the family and my stance on education, [voters] have overwhelmingly elected me 13 times.”



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