Local Officials Send TN Democrats, Kicked Out by Republicans, Right Back Into Office
Two Democratic Tennessee lawmakers were removed from their positions by their Republican colleagues after protesting gun violence on the legislative floor. One of them was Rep. Justin Jones, Tennessee’s youngest lawmaker. Their statements were made in tandem with a large group of protestors who had gathered in the gallery. The protests came in the wake of the recent mass shooting at a Christian school in Nashville that left six dead, including three children.
Four days later, Rep. Jones returned to the state capitol after being appointed interim representative following a unanimous vote from the Nashville Metropolitan Council, and a vote is scheduled for today to do the same for Rep. Justin Pearson. Tennessee state law allows for an interim representative to be named until an election is held to replace an expelled lawmaker. The crowd that had gathered in support of Jones erupted in applause after the vote was held, and accompanied him on his walk to the Capitol building. On the steps of the Capitol, Jones said to the crowd, “Today we are sending a resounding message that democracy will not be killed in the comfort of silence. Today we send a clear message to Speaker Cameron Sexton that the people will not allow his crimes against democracy to happen without challenge.”
Jones and Pearson were forced from their seats by a two-thirds majority in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. A third protestor, Rep. Gloria Johnson, managed to hold on to her seat after nearly being expelled during the session. The pair of expelled lawmakers, both of whom are Black, lambasted the House’s decision as racist and unconstitutional.
In a statement on CNN, Jones said called the decision “travesty of democracy” and added that the decision to expel “the two youngest Black lawmakers” was “no coincidence from the Tennessee Legislature.” There have been only two other expulsions in the Tennessee legislature over the past 157 years, according to CNN.com. In 2016, a representative was expelled due to allegations of sexual harassment. In 1980, another member was expelled after they were discovered to have taken a bribe.
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the expulsion “extraordinary, illegal and without any historical or legal precedent.” The Biden administration offered their support to the lawmakers, and President Joe Biden himself described the decision to oust them “shocking, undemocratic and without precedent.” Vice President Kamala Harris visited Nashville in order to advocate for stricter gun control policies in the state and met Jones, Pearson, and Johnson privately.
Their support couldn’t have come soon enough. Jones and Pearson collectively represent a pool of 130,000 voters in districts that are predominantly Black. “This attack against us is hurting all people in our state,” said Jones in an NBC interview. “Even though it is disproportionately impacting Black and brown communities, this is hurting poor white people … silencing them.” Jones then promised that he and Pearson would “continue to fight” for their constituents.
(featured image: )
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]