The expulsion of two young Black lawmakers from the Tennessee House of Representatives has ignited the passion of supporters in The Volunteer State and across the country. Now, the U.S. Senate is getting involved, and two leading Democratic lawmakers are calling on the Department of Justice to act.
Justin Jones and Justin Pearson joined the chanting of protesters calling for gun control legislation in the Tennessee Capitol on March 30. The Republican-led state House of Representatives expelled them for breaking “decorum” rules as a result. Their white colleague, Gloria Johnson, also faced expulsion but survived by one vote in what many viewed as a clear racist double standard.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock sent a joint letter to the U.S. Department of Justice today (April 12) calling on the law enforcement agency to look into Republicans’ swift expulsion of Jones and Pearson and revoking of the voice of the tens of thousands of voters who put them there in the first place.
“We do not believe that breaking decorum is alone sufficient cause for employing the most draconian of consequences to duly-elected lawmakers,” Schumer and Warnock wrote in their letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland. “This is un-democratic, un-American, and unacceptable, and the U.S. Department of Justice should investigate whether it was also unlawful or unconstitutional.”
Jones, who represents a Nashville-area district, was reinstated by a county commission as an interim representative for his district on Monday (April 10). Pearson, a Memphis-area rep, similarly earned his rightful place in the Capitol back today (April 12). But their journey to permanently occupying space in the building isn’t over yet. According to the state constitution, they must run in a special election back to their seat in order to remain there for good. A date for both elections has yet to be set.