Expelled Tennessee Lawmakers Say They Would Accept Reappointment

Second Amendment

(Bloomberg) — Local leaders in Tennessee will decide this week whether to reinstate two young Democratic lawmakers expelled from the Republican-controlled state legislature — and each said on Sunday he’d accept. 

State Reps. Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson said their expulsion by GOP lawmakers who control the Tennessee House of Representatives was an attack on democracy and the predominantly Black and Brown communities they represent.

“The Tennessee House Republicans attempt to crucify democracy has instead resurrected a movement led by young people to restore our democracy. To build a multi-racial coalition,” Jones said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “The message is that we will continue to resist. That this is not the end. That their decision to expel us is not the ultimate authority, but that the people will hold them accountable.”

The expulsion of the lawmakers, both of whom are Black, was an extraordinary measure, and Republican lawmakers had other tools available, including censure for breaking House rules of decorum and speaking out of turn. A third lawmaker, Gloria Johnson, who is White, narrowly avoided being expelled by the Republican super-majority. 

The three chanted “power to the people” on the House floor last week as protesters crowded at the state Capitol calling for stricter gun control measures following a shooting at a Nashville school that left six people dead. 

A majority of members of the Nashville Metro Council said they would back reappointing Jones, who represents the district, The Tennessean reported last week. The Shelby County Commission will also weigh whether to reinstate Pearson to his Memphis district. The appointments would be on an interim basis to be followed by special elections — and Pearson and Jones both said they would run again. 

The expulsions focused national attention on Tennessee politics, with President Joe Biden condemning the move as “shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent.”

Pearson said on NBC the expulsions were part of a “systemic effort” by the majority power to silence opposing voices. 

The Tennessee legislature “is an institution filled with people who are more concerned about supporting the NRA and supporting the Second Amendment than it is protecting the First Amendment rights of children and teenagers to be able to come to the Capitol and advocate for gun violence prevention laws,” he said.  

Read More: Biden Condemns ‘Shocking’ Tennessee Legislature Expulsions 

“This was not just an attack on us, it was an attempt to silence our districts, predominantly Black and Brown districts who no longer have representation,” Jones said. 

After the gun control protest, Republicans said the lawmakers had broken rules of decorum and that a vote for expulsion was necessary to protect the chamber’s integrity. 

It was the first time House members had been removed from elected office for violating decorum rules, the Tennessean reported.


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