Apr 12, 2023, 2:51pm EDT
politicsNorth America

Second expelled lawmaker Justin Pearson reinstated to Tennessee legislature

State Rep. Justin Pearson
REUTERS/Karen Pulfer Focht

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State Rep. Justin Pearson has become the second Democrat to be reinstated to the Tennessee House of Representatives days after the chamber voted to expel him and another Black lawmaker for protesting gun violence on the House floor.

The Shelby County Board of Commissioner voted on Wednesday to nominate the Memphis lawmaker as the interim district representative until the next state election.

The expulsion of Pearson and fellow Rep. Justin Jones sparked outrage from Democrats across the country, with President Joe Bien calling the move "undemocratic."

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Pearson, Jones, and fellow State Rep. Gloria Johnson were dubbed the "Tennessee Three" after leading hundreds of protestors onto the House floor demanding their Republican colleagues enact gun reform following the deadly Nashville shooting that killed six people, including three children.

The House subsequently voted Friday on whether to expel the three lawmakers for violating decorum and procedure rules on the House floor. Johnson, a white woman, was the only lawmaker spared from the expulsion, immediately sparking allegations of racism.

The Nashville Metro Council on Monday suspended appointment rules and voted unanimously to nominate Jones as the district's interim representative.

"I want to welcome democracy back to the people's house," Jones said in a speech on the House floor. "I want to thank you all, not for what you did, but for awakening the people of this state, particularly the young people. Thank you for reminding us that the struggle for justice is fought and won in every generation."

Only two other Tennessee representatives have been expelled in 157 years, and neither case centered around a protest.

State House Speaker Cameron Sexton, a Republican, had compared the gun reform protest to the Jan. 6 insurrection. He later told reporters that he would seat both Jones and Pearson if their respective local bodies voted to reinstate them.


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