After being expelled from the Tennessee House of Representatives last week following a gun control protest, two Democratic lawmakers have been reinstated. Justin Jones was reinstated on Monday, and Justin Pearson on Wednesday, both by unanimous votes from the Shelby County Board of Commissioners. The expulsion vote occurred days after a school shooting in Nashville, with Republicans accusing the Democrats of bringing “disorder and dishonour” to the house. A third Democrat, Gloria Johnson, narrowly kept her seat in the House vote.
Mr. Pearson addressed the crowd after the vote, saying, “You can’t expel hope. You can’t expel justice. You can’t expel our voice. And you sure can’t expel our fight. We look forward to continuing to fight.” Between them, Mr. Jones and Mr. Pearson represent about 140,000 constituents in the state. The use of expulsion in Tennessee is rare, having only been used twice since the Civil War for lawmakers convicted of soliciting a bribe and sexual misconduct.
During the council meeting on Monday, Nashville Mayor John Cooper spoke on Mr. Jones’ behalf, calling the expulsion vote “unprecedented” and asking the council to give the district their voice back. Several constituents have expressed feeling disenfranchised by the vote to oust the pair, who are known as “The Justins.” Republicans claimed that Ms. Johnson, who also protested but kept her seat, played a smaller role and did not use a megaphone.
This development in Tennessee has generated considerable attention, with many watching to see what comes next. The decision to reinstate both lawmakers may be seen as a victory for those supporting gun control measures in Tennessee. The Justins’ expulsion was controversial, and the reinstatement may rekindle the conversation around gun control and the role of peaceful protests in effecting change.