Justin Pearson reinstated in Tennessee House after expulsion

Democratic state Rep. Justin Pearson of Memphis speaks on his phone while being expelled from the state Legislature on April 6, 2023, in Nashville, Tennessee. — AFP

Just a week after the expulsion of two lawmakers from the Republican-controlled Tennessee House of Representatives, the Shelby County Board of Commissioners reinstated Representative Justin Pearson to his seat, NPR reported on Wednesday.

During the Shelby Country meeting, seven members voted to reinstate Justin Pearson while the other six out of 13 members were absent.

While speaking after the vote of his reinstatement, Pearson said he would go to Capitol on Wednesday and would take part in a session taking place on Thursday.

There are people who disagree with expulsion, said Chairman Mickell M. Lowery of the commission. He presented the resolution to reappoint Pearson to his seat.

In an interview, Lowery said: “I think that it’s important that the people of District 86 are represented by the person that they voted overwhelmingly to have in the office.”

Earlier on Monday, Representative Justin Jones was also reinstated to his seat after the expulsion.

On Wednesday afternoon, while leading a march from the National Civil Rights Museum to Selby County Commission, he told the members of the rally to show him “what Democracy looks like.”

Pearson said: “This is the Democracy that is going to transform a broken nation and a broken state into the place that God calls for it to be. This is the Democracy that is going to lift up the victims of gun violence instead of supporting the NRA and the gun lobbyists.”

The expulsion ignited racism debate

The expulsion of the two non-white representatives from the Tennessee House sparked a conspiracy of toxic partisanship and racism in the House. The House is dominated by mostly white Republicans who used a disciplinary stance to expel the two non-white members. However, they could not oust the white member Representative Gloria Johnson.

The Tennessee House expelled the members after they launched a demonstration calling for gun reform laws.

After the expulsion vote last week, Johnson said: “It might have to do with the colour of our skin.”

Both the reinstated members will return in the capacity of interim members however, they can take part in the special election to acquire their lost seat until the general elections due in 2024.

Justin Jones, Justin Pearson are popular now

Political analyst Otis Sanford said while speaking to WKNO that “It is a throwback to our racist past.”

Stanford also predicted: The expulsions would lead young people in Tennessee to get more involved with their state’s politics. He also said: “The lawmakers who were singled out could have bright futures.”

“On a more positive note, both Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, I think, showed the voters in their districts exactly why they should be reelected,” Sanford said who is also a professor at the University of Memphis.

“But also, it seems like they made themselves look like future political stars nationally”, he added.

Gun violence protest 

The three lawmakers, who are also regarded as Tennessee Three, demonstrated on the floor just days after a deadly shooting claimed six people at a Nashville School including three nine-year-old children.

Demanding action on gun reform laws to curb gun violence, Tennessee Three alleged Republicans of not acting to curtail gun violence.

Parson while speaking with WPLN said: “We are losing our democracy in Tennessee. This is another example of the erosion of democracy because we spoke up for gun reform. Because we spoke up for people and children who will never become state legislators, who will never graduate from high school and never get engaged, never be able to see or protest for their own lives because they’ve been killed by gun violence.”

Governor Tennessee Bill Lee carried out some gun reforms on Tuesday and asked the General Assembly to expand the state’s “order of protection” law (which is similar to other states’ “red flag” laws that are meant to prevent anyone who poses a threat to themselves or others from accessing guns.)

With an executive order Governor Lee, allowed the state’s background checks to take place more effectively.

Nashville shooter also acquired the weapons to kill innocent people legally. Nashville Mayor John Cooper said: “Stronger laws could have prevented three mass shootings in his city, including the recent tragedy at the Covenant School.”

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