Fascists rebuked as expelled lawmaker Justin Jones reinstated to Tennessee House
Reinstated: State Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, center, marches with supporters to the state Capitol Monday, April 10, 2023, in Nashville. After being expelled by the House Republican leadership, Jones was reinstated Monday after Nashville’s governing council voted to send him straight back to the legislature. | George Walker IV / AP

NASHVILLE—One of the Black Democrats expelled from the Tennessee House of Representatives for his role in an anti-gun protest inside the State Capitol was sworn back in to his seat on Monday in a stinging defeat for the fascistic Republican supermajority that dominates the legislature.

Almost immediately after the Metropolitan Nashville Council voted to restore State Rep. Justin Jones to his seat, he was back in the Republican-controlled chamber that cast the racist vote to expel him just four days ago.

After leading a huge crowd of supporters on a march from the council meeting, Jones took his oath of office, again, on the steps of the Capitol. The reinstatement came two weeks after the mass shooting at Covenant Christian School in Nashville that prompted Jones and two other Democrats—State Reps. Justin Pearson and Gloria Johnson—to protest in the House chamber.

Three nine-year-old white children and three staff members were killed at the school. It is ironic that Black legislators were expelled standing up against gun violence that resulted in the deaths of white school children.

Compared to the first time Jones was sworn in, the difference this time is that he re-takes office with the support of a mass movement for gun control, newly awakened across the country by the racist expulsions.

He also has the support of Democratic elected officials from coast to coast, ranging from the President of the United States down to members of local county committees everywhere. That support underlines, even more, the defeat this represents, at least for now, of the fascists in control of the Tennessee House.

It is also a significant loss for Republicans from rural areas of the state who have tried in an endless variety of ways to weaken the political strength coming from areas like Nashville and Memphis.

Weakening the political power of majority-Black and liberal-voting urban areas has been part of the GOP playbook across the country, particularly in the South. Just hours before the vote restoring Jones, for instance, a law that would slash the Nashville council in half was halted by a judicial panel, but only after the city sued the state.

Jones was the only person nominated at the meeting of the Nashville council, and the vote sending him back to the Capitol was 36 to 0. Current rules only allow the council to appoint him on an interim basis and require that a special election be held later this year to permanently fill the seat.

“No expulsion, no attempt to silence us will stop us; it will only galvanize and strengthen our movement,” Jones told the crowd in Nashville Monday. “Power to the people!” he concluded, which prompted an eruption of cheers.

Republican House majority leader William Lamberth and Jeremy Faison, the chairman of the House Republican caucus, issued a joint statement just before the Nashville council’s vote, saying that “should any expelled member be reappointed, we will welcome them.”

The statement was essentially an admission of GOP failure in the face of mass opposition, but Lamberth and Faison still arrogantly said that “like everyone else,” Jones and Pearson “are expected to follow the rules of the House as well as state law.”

The two expelled lawmakers will have the chance to run again for permanent election back to their respective seats in the coming months, and both have said that they will do so.

As for Johnson, the Democrat representing Knoxville who avoided expulsion by only a single vote, she said race was an obvious factor when it came to her survival while her two colleagues were ejected.

Asked by the media why she believed the expulsion vote targeting her had failed, Johnson replied, “I think it’s pretty clear: I’m a 60-year-old white woman. And they are two young Black men.” Johnson condemned Republican legislators for being “demeaning” to Jones and Pearson, whom she commended as “brilliant, caring people who love their community and want to fight for it.”

“They thought that if they could kick out Representative Justin Jones that he would never again be Representative Justin Jones,” Pearson told the crowd outside the Capitol on Monday. “They were wrong.”

With his fist held high and Johnson by his side, Jones walked back onto the floor of the House after being sworn in. Pearson watched overhead from the balcony among supporters who were chanting, “Welcome home.”

The Shelby County Board of Commissioners is set to meet Wednesday in Memphis, where it will take up a proposal to send Pearson back to the legislature as well.

We hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, please support great working-class and pro-people journalism by donating to People’s World.

We are not neutral. Our mission is to be a voice for truth, democracy, the environment, and socialism. We believe in people before profits. So, we take sides. Yours!

We are part of the pro-democracy media contesting the vast right-wing media propaganda ecosystem brainwashing tens of millions and putting democracy at risk.

Our journalism is free of corporate influence and paywalls because we are totally reader supported. At People’s World, we believe news and information should be free and accessible to all.

But we need your help. It takes money—a lot of it—to produce and cover unique stories you see in our pages. Only you, our readers and supporters, make this possible. If you enjoy reading People’s World and the stories we bring you, support our work by donating or becoming a monthly sustainer today.


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.