OAN Geraldyn Berry
UPDATED 5:06 PM – Monday, April 10, 2023
The Nashville Metropolitan Council has voted on Monday to reinstate expelled Democrat Representative Justin Jones. This comes as the council had scheduled a meeting to discuss the vacancy in the Tennessee state Legislature.
In response to a massacre at a Nashville school that left six people dead, including three 9-year-old children, Democrats Justin Jones, Justin J. Pearson, and Gloria Johnson led supporters in chants advocating for gun control legislation. When they were not given permission to speak, the three disobeyed House rules and used a bullhorn. Jones and Pearson were expelled from the legislature last Thursday after Tennessee House leaders referred to the demonstration as an “insurrection.” Johnson, a white woman, managed to survive her vote, which she claimed was due to her color.
A majority of the Metropolitan Council’s 40 members, 23, promised last week that they would vote to send Jones back to the Legislature. Vice Mayor Jim Shulman told NBC News that instead of holding a month-long nomination period, he anticipates the council to consider suspending the rules to allow a vote on a replacement to take Jones’ position at today’s 5:30 p.m. ET meeting.
“He’s a duly elected representative of his constituents. They voted him in. They chose him. They want him to speak for them,” Councilmember Zulfat Suara said. “We cannot stop the voices of the masses or what the voters wanted, that would not be good for our democracy. What the state did [Thursday] is that: kill democracy.”
The Shelby County Board of Commissioners, which will pick Pearson’s replacement, announced a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of reappointing Pearson to his position, according to Chairman Mickell Lowery, who made the announcement on 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. “I also believe that the ramifications for our great state are still yet to be seen.”
Since joining the majority-white Legislature, Jones and Pearson have claimed in interviews since their expulsion that they had noticed tensions among their fellow lawmakers. Because of their past as activists, their age, and their color, Jones claimed that he and Pearson had been “targeted” ever since they joined the Legislature.
“When you have people who make comments about hanging you on a tree and hanging Black people on a tree as a form of capital punishment, when you wear a dashiki on the House floor and a member gets up and they talk about your dashiki saying it’s unprofessional, they’re really sending signals that you don’t belong here,” Pearson said.
Since Jones and Pearson’s expulsion, Democrats in Washington have gathered to support them. Visiting the “Tennessee Three,” as the group is known, Vice President Kamala Harris praised them for “channeling” the voices of their constituents in speaking out against gun violence while she was in Nashville on Friday. They were also contacted by President Joe Biden, who extended an invitation for them to come to the White House. “Shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent,” he had described their removal as being.
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