Rep. Justin Jones was reinstated back into office yesterday by the Nashville Metropolitan Council, reports NBC News. The council suspended its procedural rules, which allowed an immediate vote, instead of holding sessions for new nominations.
In less than 15 minutes, the council unanimously voted 36-0 to reinstate Jones.
“Our voters were silenced,” Councilwoman Delishia Porterfield said at the meeting. “With this vote, we are restoring the political voice of 70,000 people of District 52. Their will should have never been undermined. The people choose their representative. We will send a strong message that we will not tolerate threats to our democracy.”
After the vote, Jones raised his fist as his supporters chanted, "Welcome home!"
“I want to welcome democracy back to the people's house," Jones said in a speech on the House floor. "I want to thank you all, not for what you did, but for awakening the people of this state, particularly the young people. Thank you for reminding us that the struggle for justice is fought and won in every generation."
"We will continue to be your voice here," he said. "And no expulsion, no attempt to silence us will stop us, but it will only galvanize and strengthen our movement. And we will continue to show up in the people's house."
On the steps of the state capital, Jones appeared with Rep. Justin Pearson of Memphis and they addressed the crowd.
“This is the rebirth and resurrection of a movement in Tennessee, not just today but in the days ahead,” Jones said. “The birth of the new South, because right here in Nashville we’ve got movements led by young people that transformed this nation.”
Pearson spoke of the importance of “having a pluralistic, multiracial, multiethnic, multi-economic democracy.”
“We are way more powerful than the NRA or the gun lobby or anybody who told us we just need to shut up and sit down,” Pearson said.
“You might try and silence it. You might try and expel it, but the people’s power will not be stopped,” he added.
Last week. Jones and Pearson were expelled from the Republican-controlled Tennessee House of Representatives for protesting gun control on the House floor following the Nashville school shooting.
Following the explusion, the issue of race in the partisan retaliatory vote was brought to the center of the debate because Rep. Gloria Johnson, who protested with Jones and Pearson, was not removed from office.
"You cannot ignore the racial dynamic of what happened today. Two young Black lawmakers get expelled and the one white woman does not,” Pearson said at the time. “That's a statement in and of itself.”
When Johnson was asked why she believed that she was not expelled, she responded, “It might have to do with the color of our skin.”
The removal of Jones and Pearson from office drew swift protests from Black residents of Nashville and garnered national attention. President Joe Biden invited the state representatives to the White House. Also, Vice-President Kamala Harris met with the two lawmakers during her trip to Fisk University.
"Let's understand the underlying issue is about fighting for the safety of our children," Harris said. "It's been years now where they are taught to read and write and hide in a closet and be quiet if there's a mass shooter at their school, where our children, who have God's capacity to learn and lead, who go to school in fear."
The Shelby County Board of Commissioners will meet on Wednesday (April 12, 2023) to determine if Pearson will be reinstated or if they’ll choose his successor, Chairman Mickell Lowery announced Sunday.
“I believe the expulsion of State Representative Justin Pearson was conducted in a hasty manner without consideration of other corrective action methods,” Lowery said in a statement. “I also believe that the ramifications for our great state are still yet to be seen.”