People’s victory: Reinstatement of Black lawmaker Justin Jones a defeat for fascism
State Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, delivers remarks April 10, 2023, at a rally outside the State Capitol. Jones was appointed to represent District 52 by the Metro Nashville City Council after being expelled by Republicans the previous week for using a bullhorn to shout support for pro-gun control protesters in the House chamber. | George Walker IV / AP

NASHVILLE—By a unanimous vote, exiled Black lawmaker Justin Jones was reappointed to the Tennessee State House of Representatives by an emergency session of Metro Nashville Council on April 10.

His return to the legislature came just a scant few days after his expulsion by the Republican-controlled body on April 6 for so-called “disorderly behavior.” The behavior deemed disorderly by the GOP was the participation by Jones and two of his colleagues, Reps. Justin Pearson and Gloria Johnson, in a peaceful, non-violent protest on the House floor demanding gun control.

The demonstration, conducted in conjunction with citizens in the gallery, was in response to Republican inaction following the recent mass shooting at the Covenant Christian School in Nashville.

In support of his reappointment to his legislative seat, there was a massive show of support on Monday at the Metro Courthouse, where Metro Nashville Council meets. Thousands rallied at 4:00 pm to await the decision. Council convened at 4:30, and at 4:43, the decision was announced.

The rally was filled with speeches of support and chants, including, “Stand up, fight back,” “No more silence, end gun violence,” “Is it enough to pray, no,” and “Enough is enough, disarm hate.”

After the announcement, Jones and the crowd marched to the State Capitol, where he was again sworn in as a member of the Tennessee legislature. At the Capitol, Jones led chants of “Whose house, our house,” and “No justice, no peace.”

Jones said, “I want to welcome the people back to the people’s house.” He declared that the rapid defeat of the GOP’s racist expulsion move “shows the power of the people.” He stated that the “Republican Party has galvanized a national movement.”

The Metro Council took less than 15 minutes to reappoint Jones to his legislative seat. He will sit in the legislature on an interim basis now until a special election can be held to permanently fill the seat. Jones has already indicated he will run.

The racist Republican legislature apparently failed to take into account that making interim appointments to fill vacated seats was the legal responsibility of county commissions. The GOP leadership also did not seem to remember that it would be the Nashville Metro Council—already at odds with the legislature over other issues—which would be making the decision when it came to Jones’s seat.

In that regard, shocking reports have surfaced that in the case of the other ousted Black Democratic lawmaker, Justin Pearson, Republican legislators have threatened to cut off funds to his county—Shelby County that encompasses Memphis—if he is reappointed. This would include funding to operate schools and municipalities.

So far, there has been no confirmation from Republican legislators on whether they intend to take such a retaliatory stance. Legal experts, however, are already scouring laws, regulations, and statutes to ascertain whether it is possible. Hence, Republican quiescence on this threat, but just a rumor on such an outrageous measure is enough to be alarming to commissioners.

The Shelby County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to vote on Pearson’s reappointment on Wednesday, April 12.

In the meantime, Jones’s victory is a defeat for incipient fascism in the battle for democracy, of which gun reform is an indispensable part.

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.


Albert Bender
Albert Bender

Albert Bender is a Cherokee activist, historian, political columnist, and freelance reporter for Native and Non-Native publications. He is currently writing a legal treatise on Native American sovereignty and working on a book on the war crimes committed by the U.S. against the Maya people in the Guatemalan civil war He is a consulting attorney on Indigenous sovereignty, land restoration, and Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) issues and a former staff attorney with Legal Services of Eastern Oklahoma (LSEO) in Muskogee, Okla.