Politics /

Ousted Tennessee Lawmaker Justin Jones Reinstated

Jones was expelled for leading a pro-gun control protest on the state House floor in March

The lawmaker who led a disruptive protest on the floor of the Tennessee House has been reinstated following a vote from the Nashville Metropolitan Council.

Justin Jones was one of two elected officials expelled for actions committed on March 30, when pro-gun control protestors flooded the state house following the shooting at The Covenant School.

On April 10, the Nashville Metropolitan Council unanimously voted to reinstate Jones after suspending its regular rules, which would have required a month-long nomination process. Jones was sworn in later that night on the steps of the state Capitol.

He raised his fist while walking into the chamber with Representative Gloria Johnson, who narrowly survived the expulsion vote. 

“I want to welcome democracy back to the people’s house,” said Jones during his speech from the House floor, per NBC News. “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.”

Jones is a community organizer who was elected from District 52 as a Democrat following an unopposed race. The California native moved to Tennessee to attend Fisk University in 2013. He has participated in several large-scale protests, including a 62-day sit-in outside the state house in opposition to the Dakota Pipeline construction at Standing Rock. 

Jones was banned from the Capitol in March of 2019 after he assaulted House Speaker Glen Casada. While protesting the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, Jones threw a cup of coffee into an elevator at Casada, hitting him and Representative Debra Moody. A police report states the activist tried to push past officers and called Casada a racist. 

“I pray that the violence of racism will produce similar outrage in the TN Capitol as a few drops of iced tea in a paper cup,” Jones tweeted after the incident. 

Jones was arrested at the Capitol in April of 2017 for staging a sit-in in support of Medicaid expansion. 

The second expelled lawmaker, Representative Justin J. Pearson from District 86 in Memphis, has expressed hope that he will be able to return to Nashville soon. 

I believe there are some people who understand the will of the people matters and the bullying, the tactics of the state legislature even in this moment should tell us something about the way that place operates and why we have to send people there to change it,” said Pearson while speaking as a guest pastor at Church on the River on April 9, per WREG.

Pearson is a member of Memphis Community Against Pollution and the Poor People’s Campaign: National Call for Moral Revival. He won a special election in January after his predecessor died. 

The Chairman of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners, which oversees District 86, called for a special meeting on April 13 to determine if Pearson will be reinstated. The board is obligated to appoint an interim representative until the next election.

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