Nashville Council Votes to Reinstate Black Tennessee Lawmaker Justin Jones

Nashville sends Justin Jones back to the Tennessee House days after GOP lawmakers ousted him.

via: The Washington Post

The vote by the Nashville Metro Council to give Rep. Justin Jones, 27, his job back comes just a few days after Tennessee Republicans expelled Jones and Rep. Justin Pearson of Memphis for leading a gun-control protest from the House floor with a bullhorn. The Shelby County Commission is expected on vote on whether to reappoint Pearson on Wednesday.

Their expulsions last week were the latest move by Republican state leaders around the country to openly stifle dissent in a majority Republican statehouse. The actions brought once again to the fore the country’s divisions over gun control, race and freedom of speech.

Minutes before the vote, Jones entered the council chamber and jumped onto a bench and started addressing his supporters. He called the House speaker an “extremist” while vowing the younger generation would eventually succeed in enacting tougher gun laws. He then led the crowd in song
Republican leaders said the lawmakers who quickly became known as the “Tennessee Three” — Jones and Pearson, who were ousted, and Rep. Gloria Johnson, who was not — had violated the body’s rules of decorum during the March 30 protest.

Over the weekend, both Jones and Pearson were abruptly removed from the legislature’s phone directory and website. But with the council vote Monday night, Jones regained his seat before legislative leaders had time to remove his name from his office door.

Jones and Pearson, if reappointed, will still have to run for reelection in a special election since their appointment is taking place more than 12 months before the next state election in November 2024.

Tennessee state Sen. London Lamar (D), who represents part of Memphis, said the expected vote in Shelby County on Wednesday to reappoint Pearson could be closer than Monday’s vote on Jones in Nashville.

The Nashville Metro Council has 40 members, and Lamar said 29 of them have already publicly committed to supporting Jones. The Shelby County Commission has 13 members, including four Republicans.

But Lamar, a former state representative, said she is now confident that Pearson also has enough votes to be reappointed.

“In an attempt to be malicious, you have now created two political megastars who have now made history,” said Lamar, who conceded she was skeptical of the confrontation tactics that the two lawmakers had embraced to draw attention to gun violence. “I think now it is going to be hard for the Tennessee GOP to continue their covert and overt racism tactics because now the whole nation is watching.”

Both men raked in tens of thousands of campaign donations over the weekend, Lamar said.

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