Tennessee Democrats Push to Bring Second Expelled Lawmaker Back to House

Tennessee Democrats Push to Bring Second Expelled Lawmaker Back to House

Tennessee Democrats on Tuesday will press for the reinstatement of a second state representatives who was expelled for leading a gun policy protest on the floor of the statehouse, after the first was reinstated on Monday.

Justin Jones pumped his fist and declared “power to the people” as he returned to the state House of Representatives on Monday after being restored by the Metropolitan Council of Nashville and Davidson County.

His colleague Justin Pearson, the other young Black legislator who was expelled last week, could get a similar vote for reinstatement on Wednesday when the Shelby County Board of Commissioners will consider reappointing him to his Memphis district.

“You might try and silence it. You might try and expel it. But the people’s power will not be stopped,” Pearson told supporters outside the council chambers in Nashville following Jones’s reinstatement. “This is what democracy looks like.”

In a joint statement after Jones’s reinstatement, William Lamberth and Jeremy Faison, who lead Tennessee’s House Republicans, noted that the state’s constitution “provides a pathway back for expulsion.”

“Should any expelled member be reappointed, we will welcome them,” Monday’s statement said. “Like everyone else, they are expected to follow the rules of the House as well as state law.”

Republican lawmakers last week kicked out Jones and Pearson for breaking decorum but came up one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed to expel Representative Gloria Johnson, a white woman who joined Jones and Pearson in the demonstration but did not speak through a megaphone.

The conflict has captured national attention and served as a rallying cry for Democrats over the issues of democracy, gun violence and racial inequality.

A large crowd calling for gun control protested outside the statehouse March 30, and Jones and Pearson engaged in a call-and-response from the chamber’s floor with people who took their protest into the spectators gallery following the March 27 school shooting in Nashville that killed three 9-year-old school children and three adults.

On Monday, about 600 protesters gathered outside the Metropolitan Council as it voted 36-0 to make Jones, 27, the interim representative.

The vote set off a celebration as supporters shouted “Whose house? Our house!” and “No Justin, no peace” while displaying signs that read, “Protect kids, not guns” and “Stop sales of AR15.”

Many of them followed Jones to the statehouse, cheering him as he was sworn in on the steps.

The House was in session as he then quietly entered the chamber and took his seat. A colleague shook his hand. Jones was introduced to cheers from the gallery, and he raised a fist in acknowledgement.

“I want to welcome the people back to the people’s house,” Jones said after House Speaker Cameron Sexton, a Republican, gave him an opportunity to address the assembly. “I want to welcome democracy back to the people’s house.” Jones then settled in to listen to debate and take part in voting.

Republican lawmakers hold a 75-23 supermajority and have shown little concern for reprisal from voters.