After a deadly school shooting in Nashville on April 6, Representative Justin Jones was dismissed from the Tennessee House of Representatives for organizing a gun-control protest from the floor. On Monday, as he returned to his position in the Senate, hundreds of cheering supporters accompanied him up the Capitol steps.
“I want to welcome the people back to the people’s house. I want to welcome democracy back to the people’s house,” Jones said in his first remarks back on the floor. “Last Thursday, members tried to crucify democracy, but today we have a resurrection.”
After the shooting at a Nashville elementary school that left six dead, the House Republican supermajority voted 72 to 25 to expel Jones for violating House decorum, making him the first person in the history of the state to be removed from elected office for such a breach.
Jones, D-Nashville, Rep. Justin Pearson, D-Memphis, and Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, were dubbed the “Tennessee Three” by their fellow House members when they broke chamber rules by approaching the House podium between legislation without being recognized.
The Republican leadership demanded their expulsion to uphold the rules of the House after Jones and Pearson used a megaphone to lead demonstrators in chants for gun reform. After hours of heated debate, the House supermajority managed to get rid of Jones and Pearson, but they fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to get rid of Johnson.
By voting Jones back into the District 52 House seat on Monday afternoon, Nashville’s progressive-leaning council, responsible for filling the Nashville vacancy, sent “a strong message to our state government and across the country that we will not tolerate threats to our democracy,” as Council member Delishia Porterfield put it.
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While a special election is scheduled to permanently fill the vacancy, Jones will serve as the interim representative. He can seek reelection if he so chooses. From the historic Metro Nashville Courthouse, Jones and his swarm of admirers made the short trek to the Capitol steps, where Jones took up a megaphone.
“Today we sent a clear message to Speaker Cameron Sexton that the people will not allow his crimes against democracy to happen without challenge,” he said. “This is not about one person. It’s not about one position. It’s about a movement of people empowered to restore the soul of what this building should represent and that is democracy.”
On the Capitol steps, Jones took the oath of office with Chancellor I’Ashea L. Myles at his side, and the throng went wild. Jones finished his speech by pumping his fist in the air. A few minutes later, Jones and Johnson returned to the chamber with loud cheers from their supporters.
NEW: Justin Jones reappointed to Tennessee legislature by Nashville council https://t.co/TAKm0yTmGk
— Joey Garrison (@joeygarrison) April 10, 2023
As soon as the House was officially convened, he took his seat. He had not missed any votes on bills since he was kicked out on Thursday. After Jones had returned to his seat, he was quickly called on to speak by Sexton, R-Crossville, one of the primary proponents of the three’s expulsion.
“Today, 78,000 people have a voice in this chamber once again,” Jones said. “No expulsion, no attempt to silence us will stop us, but only galvanize and strengthen our movement. We continue to show up in the people’s house. Power to the people!”
When Jones was done speaking, Sexton gaveled the gallery to order twice. At least one of the thirteen county commissioners in Shelby County has promised to re-appoint Representative Pearson to his seat. On Wednesday, the commission will have a meeting to discuss the issue.
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