Due to their involvement in a gun control demonstration, two Tennessee Democrats who were kicked out of the Republican-controlled state House of Representatives last week expressed hope on Sunday (9 April) that they would soon be re-elected.
Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson said to the Press that they hoped to be reappointed by their districts to serve in their seats until they could run again in special elections. Four days after a school sh00ting, they joined hundreds of protesters at the state capitol in Nashville to call for stricter gun laws.
Democratic outrage at their expulsion has spread across the country. Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Nashville in support of Representatives Jones, Pearson, and Gloria Johnson, who also participated in the gun control rally but was spared expulsion last week by a single-member vote.
The Shelby County Board of Commissioners in Memphis and the Metropolitan Council of Davidson County in Nashville may designate interim members to fill their districts’ current vacant seats until a special election is held.
Kevin Rhoten, a member of the Metro Council, declared on Twitter that he had been inundated with emails requesting him to vote to appoint Justin Jones to the District 52 seat ever since Thursday (6 April) and that he intended to do so.
Pearson will likely be reappointed to the District 86 seat, according to at least two members of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners who spoke with the local media. Pearson told NBC:
“I would be honored to accept the appointment of the Shelby County Commission and to run in a special election.”
Jones declared that if reappointed, he too would stand for reelection in a special election. Jones said of the Republican-controlled House (as reported by The Guardian)
“Their attack on democracy hurts all of us.”
The Nashville Metropolitan Council was scheduled to meet to discuss the district vacancy. According to Nashville Vice Mayor Jim Shulman, who spoke to Reuters, if the council rules are suspended, a vote might be conducted immediately following that meeting. If so, Jones might then resume his position.
Mickell Lowery, the chairman of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners, declared on Sunday (9 April) that the board would discuss reappointing Pearson at a special meeting scheduled for Wednesday (12 April).
Following the Murdeɼ of three 9-year-old children and three staff members at the Covenant School in Nashville on March 27, hundreds of protesters poured into the Tennessee statehouse on March 30 to call on lawmakers to enact tighter gun regulations.
Videos posted to Twitter showed the two Black lawmakers, Representatives Jones and Pearson, shouting through a bullhorn on the House floor, saying, “No action, no peace!”
Republicans accused them and Johnson of engaging in “disorderly behavior” and said in resolutions calling for their expulsion that they. The Democrats said their participation in the protest was within their constitutional right to freedom of speech (According to Yahoo)
“did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives through their individual and collective actions.”
The body decided to kick Jones and Pearson out on Thursday (6 April) along partisan lines. During the discussion before the vote, race was raised numerous times. Republican Representative Gino Bulso, who is white, depicted Jones, a Black man, as an “uppity Negro,” according to Jones.
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Sarbjeet Kumar, a different Republican in the room, claimed that Jones viewed everything through a racial prism. Black members and other Democrats joined Jones at the platform as the vote was being taken. Republicans primarily comprise white people.
According to Pearson and Jones, their expulsion is the most recent attempt by the largely white and Republican state government to silence the voices of communities of color. The two former lawmakers spoke to their respective communities at Sunday’s Easter worship services.
Pearson stressed his and Jones’ innocence during his sermon at Memphis’ Church on the River and vowed to keep criticizing the Republican-led legislature. Pearson told the congregation (According to Reuters)
“The Republican-led supermajority of the Tennessee General Assembly sought to have a political lynching of three of its members because we spoke out of turn against the status quo of the government after the tragic deaths of six people.”
He talked ebulliently, causing the assembly to get to their feet and shout their approval. Jones spoke to the crowd in passing during the Easter service at Watson Grove Church in Nashville, encouraging them to persevere (as reported by CBC)
“It’s not over,” Jones said. “We are in the midst of a resurrection…that will redeem the soul of the state and hopefully this nation.”
After the Civil War, only two other state lawmakers from Tennessee were expelled by their peers: one in 1980 for accepting a bribe in exchange for delaying legislation and another in 2016 after receiving many allegations of s*xual misconduct. Votes for both expulsions were unanimous and bipartisan.
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