“Big 3” Tennessee Democratic lawmakers Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were voted back into their seats in the Tennessee House after they were expelled for protesting for better gun reform laws. The Republican majority voted to remove the two young Black lawmakers following a recent school shooting, citing the need for decisive action to protect children from inadequate gun laws.
Tennessee “Big 3” Democrats Won’t Be Silenced
After special election results, two “big three” representatives reclaimed their seats in the Tennessee House on August 4. Democratic lawmakers Justin Jones of Nashville and Justin Pearson of Memphis were previously voted out and expelled from the legislature by Republican officials after disrupting House proceedings with gun-violence protests.
When a deadly Covenant School left six dead, including three 9-year-old children, Jones rounded up crowds in the galleries of the Tennessee General Assembly, using a bullhorn to call for the chamber to take action to prevent more gun deaths. Pearson and Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, joined him.
The Republican supermajority was unsuccessful in expelling Johnson, the Democratic member of the Tennessee House of Representatives currently representing District 90. Still, Jones and Pearson were expelled as the interruption they implemented was seen as a violation of House decorum rules.
The Knoxville lawmaker took to Twitter the evening of the election using “#solidarity” to share her excitement for the election results of her “brothers” Jones and Pearson.
She stated: “I’m ashamed that my colleagues across the aisle cost the taxpayers so much $$ on these special elections. It was a big expense as well as a travesty of justice,” referring to the long wait for the special election even though almost immediately, county legislative bodies appointed Jones and Pearson back to represent their districts in an interim capacity.
“You Can’t Expel A Movement”
After Jones defeated Republican opponent Laura Nelson with close to 80% of the vote for the House District 52 seat, the Nashville lawmaker told The Tennessean in a statement:
“Today is a landslide victory by the people, for the people, and in community with the people.” The district representative assured the voters of District 52 would not be silenced in a message to “extremist Republicans” that “tried to expel our democracy and then tried to buy it.”
In Memphis, Pearson defeated Republican Jeff Johnston with more than 94% of the vote for the House District 86 seat.
“The statement we’re making to the Republican party in Nashville is crystal clear: You can’t expel a movement,” Pearson said. “You can’t expel hope. For these movements live in the people in this district, people who refused to be silenced and shackled and told to be quiet and be in the back.”
“Today We Celebrate”
“Republicans are in the find out portion of this movement, and the people power we are bringing to the legislature is going to change this state,” Jones told The Tennessean. “Today we celebrate, and tomorrow we transform the state.”
Ahead of a special legislative session expected to begin on August 21, Jones and Pearson have continued advocating for gun reforms as two of the youngest Black lawmakers in Tennessee.
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