Last week, Tennessee state Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were expelled from the state house by GOP lawmakers after protesting gun violence. Only four days later, the Nashville Metropolitan Council unanimously voted to reinstate Rep. Jones.
This is an issue because not only were two democratically-elected Black Americans removed from their positions for speaking out against gun violence, but thousands of Black voters in their districts were also disenfranchised. Even State Rep. Gloria Johnson, who is white, narrowly survived a vote on whether to expel her as well, acknowledged that racism likely played a key role in the vote.
Several blocks away, Jones marched to the Capitol building with supporters singing “This Little Light of Mine,” a round of applause welcomed Jones as he walked into the chamber with Rep. Johnson at his side.
“To the people of Tennessee, I stand with you…We will continue to be your voice here. And no expulsion, no attempt to silence us will stop us, but it will only galvanize and strengthen our movement. And we will continue to show up in the people’s houses.”
“Power to the people,” he cheers, to which Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton responds to Jones supporters to “refrain from disrupting the proceedings.”
Today, the Shelby County Board of Commissioners has scheduled a vote for the potential reinstatement of Justin Pearson. Multiple members of the board have already come forward in support of Pearson’s reinstatement. However, at least one commissioner is considering voting against reinstatement, allegedly fearing Republican lawmakers would retaliate against Shelby County (which includes much of Memphis) by withholding crucial funds.
If both council members are reinstated, the reappointments would only be temporary positions. Meaning both Pearson and Jones would have to run for reelection in the special election races. While there is no set date yet, both politicians have made it clear that they plan to seek re-election.