The tragic mass shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville on March 27 led to cries for change from the local community. On March 30, protesters filled the gallery in the Tennessee House of Representatives and called on elected leaders to do something about the carnage. Reps. Justin Jones, Justin Pearson, and Gloria Johnson joined in their chants. The Republican-led legislature retaliated by expelling Jones and Pearson, the two youngest Black representatives in the body.
On Monday (April 10), a county commission in Nashville voted unanimously to reinstate Jones as the interim representative for his district. Today (April 12), a Memphis-area council did the same for Pearson. The Shelby County Board of Commissioners voted 7-0 to appoint him to his recently vacated seat. Both Jones and Pearson will have to run in and win a special election for their seats to permanently return to the Capitol.
“I want to commend you for standing up for the things that matter to the people of Shelby County and the state of Tennessee,” Commissioner Shante Avant told Pearson at the board hearing today, per The New York Times. “You have done well by us in making sure that our voices can be heard.”
Before the committee took up the issue of filling Pearson’s seat, the 28-year-old lawmaker rallied with hundreds of supporters and marched with them in tow. The gathered crowd cheered when the vote to send Pearson back to the House passed. Just like his colleague, Justin Jones, Pearson took to the streets flanked by his well-wishers.
After he was officially reinstated, Pearson delivered a powerful statement to the audience while surrounded by his family. “The message for all the people in Nashville who decided to expel us: You can’t expel hope. You can’t expel justice. You can’t expel our voice. And you sure can’t expel our fight,” he said triumphantly. Watch the clip below.