Tennessee state representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were expelled from their positions yesterday (April 6) following a contentious vote spearheaded by the Republican majority in the state House. Jones and Pearson were the youngest Black members in the legislative body. But less than 24 hours after their swift removal, Jones could be on his way back to the state Capitol.
A majority of the members of the Nashville Metropolitan Council announced today (April 7) that they will vote to reinstate Jones to the Tennessee state legislature. Republicans decided to kick them out because of their participation in a gun control protest in the chamber on March 30.
The state constitution allows any expelled lawmaker to be appointed by a county commission back to their seat. They’re also eligible to run in the special election to permanently fill the post. More than half of Nashville’s 40-seat Metropolitan Council confirmed to NBC News or shared on social media that they will vote on Monday (April 10) to give Jones his old job back.
“They removed the voice from 140,000 people who voted for them,” Councilmember Burkley Allen told NBC of the controversial move by Republicans. “It’s a terrible precedent to set, that we disagree with you and you’ve disrupted our House proceedings and therefore we’re expelling you. That’s not the way democracy works.”
Gloria Johnson, a white representative who also faced an expulsion vote, was spared from losing her seat after she didn’t receive a supermajority. To many observers, it reeked of a racist double standard. Even the elected official herself acknowledged it, telling reporters that keeping her seat “might have to do with the color of my skin.”
Jones has been unapologetic with his views both before and after his expulsion. If anything, his removal from the Tennessee House has only energized his supporters even more. “They thought by expelling us they would silence us, they would silence our movements that we’re part of, but in fact they’ve amplified it, because the nation can see how racist they are,” he told Democracy Now in an interview seen below. “The nation can see how retaliatory and absurd and authoritarian they are.”