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No Justin, No Peace: Expelled TN Rep. Justin Jones Reinstated After Unanimous Nashville Council Vote

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Democratic Representative Justin Jones has returned to the Tennessee state House, just days after Republicans voted to expel him. The Metropolitan Council of Nashville voted 36 to 0 on Monday to reinstate him. Following the vote, Jones’s supporters marched to the Tennessee Legislature, where he was sworn in on the steps of the Capitol. Justin Pearson of Memphis, who was also expelled last week, could be reappointed to the Tennessee House Wednesday if a majority of the Shelby County Commission’s 13 members agree to it. We air highlights from Monday’s proceedings, as well as Pearson’s speech Sunday in Memphis to his supporters.

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show in Tennessee, where the Metropolitan Council of Nashville voted unanimously Monday to reinstate Democratic state Representative Justin Jones, just days after Republicans voted to expel him from the Tennessee House of Representatives for joining peaceful protests against gun violence after a massacre at a Christian school.

JUSTIN JONES AND SUPPORTERS: [singing] I’ve got a feeling everything’s gonna be all right.
Oh, I’ve got a feeling everything’s gonna be all right.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Nashville Metro Councilmember Delishia Porterfield speaking just before Monday’s unanimous 36-to-0 vote to return Jones to the Tennessee House until a special election can be held. First, Nashville Mayor John Cooper.

MAYOR JOHN COOPER: This afternoon’s vote is unprecedented. But so was the action taken to expel members of the Legislature. Voters in District 52 elected Justin Jones to be their voice at the state House, and that voice was taken away this past week. So let’s give them their voice back. And I call on this body to vote unanimously right now to do just that. Thank you.

COUNCILMEMBER DELISHIA PORTERFIELD: On Thursday, April the 6th, we witnessed a miscarriage of justice and an egregious assault on our democracy, which resulted in over 70,000 Davidson County voters — our voters — being silenced when our representative was expelled. This is not the first attempt of the state attempting to silence the people. …

With this vote to reinstate Representative Jones, we are restoring the political voice of the 70,000 people of District 52. Our community members are more than capable of selecting their representative, and their will should have never been undermined. …

Representative Jones was honest about who he was: a bold and unapologetic advocate for the community. The people chose their representative. And with this vote, we will send a strong message to our state government and across the country that we will not tolerate threats to our democracy.

VICE MAYOR JIM SHULMAN: If you are for the election of Justin Jones to be the interim successor for the vacant seat of Tennessee House District 52, you will vote aye; if not, you will vote no. Votes are in. Mr. Clerk, close the machines. Take the vote. Ayes, 36; nos, zero. Justin Jones has been elected as the interim successor for the vacant seat of Tennessee House District 52, pursuant to the state law and the rules governing the Metropolitan Council.

AMY GOODMAN: Following the vote, Justin Jones and more than a thousand supporters marched to the Tennessee Capitol, chanting, “No Justins, no peace,” and more.

JONES SUPPORTERS: This is what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!

AMY GOODMAN: Upon arriving at the steps of the Tennessee Capitol, Justin Jones was sworn in again, reinstated, and addressed his supporters as they looked on.

REP. JUSTIN JONES: I’ll end by saying this. I’ll end by saying this. When they expelled us, they had no idea that this was going to happen. They just thought that they would go about as they do and as they always do, that they would abuse their power, and there would be no resistance, that they would do something unconstitutional, and we would just have to wait to seek accountability. Well, we say to that that there comes a time when time itself is ready for a change, and that time has come to Nashville. That time has come to Tennessee.

Speaker Cameron Sexton, you can either move on over, or we’ll move on over you, because we’re moving on. And so, friends, Nashville and Tennessee, we hope you’ll join us in the people’s House, because no matter what happens here today, we have a speaker who may not respect the results, so we need people to show up in the chamber and let him know that we will not allow him to stand in the doorways of the Legislature like governors of the past and politicians of the past stood in the doorways of schools, challenging desegregation. We won’t let him stand in the doorways of democracy anymore. And that he’s trying to crucify democracy, but, hey, happy Easter Monday, because we are resurrecting a movement across this state. Forward together, and not one step back. Forward together.

SUPPORTERS: Not one step back!

REP. JUSTIN JONES: Whose house?

SUPPORTERS: Our house!

REP. JUSTIN JONES: Whose house?

SUPPORTERS: Our house!

REP. JUSTIN JONES: Whose house?

SUPPORTERS: Our house!

AMY GOODMAN: After the swearing-in, Justin Jones immediately called for the resignation of Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton. Jones’s supporters then sang as they entered the Capitol and walked up the steps to the chamber to return to his seat and site of his expulsion just last Thursday.

JONES SUPPORTERS: [singing] I’m gonna let it shine.
Oh, everywhere I go, I’m gonna let it shine.
Oh, everywhere I go, I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine.

AMY GOODMAN: As they walked up the steps of the Tennessee Capitol in Nashville, Representative Jones took his seat on the House floor as the session was ongoing, arm in arm with fellow Tennessee Democrat Gloria Johnson, who narrowly missed being expelled last week with him. He raised his fist in the air to cheers.

Looking on was Justin Pearson of Memphis, who was also expelled last week as one of the Tennessee Three. Pearson could be reappointed to the Tennessee House today, if a majority of the Shelby County Commission’s 13 members agree to it. On Sunday, the expelled state Representative Justin Pearson joined his father, Pastor Jason Pearson, and spoke at an Easter service in Memphis at the Church of the River, First Unitarian Church.

JUSTIN PEARSON: 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 in the shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville. Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney and Hallie Scruggs were 9 years old. Cynthia Peak, Mike Hill and Katherine Koonce worked at the school. The shooter, Audrey Hale, was gunned down by police that day, as well. Because we walked to the well of the House out of turn, resolutions were unjustly and undemocratically filed against us on these trumped-up charges. Because we spoke out against the empire, against those in positions of power, without God power or people power, because we spoke out against the empire of the NRA and the gun lobbyists, demanding — because we demanded an end to gun violence and an end to the proliferation of weapons on our streets and an end to the funerals we attend day after day and week after week and month after month and year after year, because we did that, the Republican-led General Assembly, with the support of folks even in this district, like Mark White from our own community, thought it better to get rid of our Democratic representation in District 86 than to actually solve the problem.

This has been a holy week. This has been a sacred week. The lesson from it is that resurrection is a promised prophecy to a persecuted people. Fifty-five years ago this week, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed by gun violence. And I tell you what: His words from what he spoke just days before he was assassinated are still true. The movement lives or dies in Memphis. The movement lives or dies in Memphis. The movement lives or dies in Memphis. The movement lives or dies in Memphis. The movement lives or dies in Memphis. The movement for justice lives or dies in Memphis. The movement for democracy lives or dies in Memphis. The movement to end gun violence lives or dies in Memphis.

We’ve seen those who want to kill the movement in the Republican-led supermajority. We’ve witnessed one of the most historic, unprecedented, unjustifiable abuses of power by a state government against Black folks and a woman, just because we decided to own our birthright to speak up against injustice, to speak up and fight for people, including people who are no longer here, people like my own classmate, Larry Thorn, killed by gun violence earlier this year, those people who can speak no more. Because we decided to elevate the voices and the hearts and the spirits of those folk, the supermajority Republican Legislature decided that it was time for us to go, because it was, in our opinion, time to listen, time to listen to the demands of thousands of children and youth and teenagers asking for leaders in positions of power to do something, to pass laws that actually prevent gun violence, to pass laws that actually support communities, to pass laws that actually support youth, ensuring to make our communities safer everywhere.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Justin Pearson of Memphis. He was expelled last week as one of the Tennessee Three for engaging in a gun protest after the mass shooting at a Christian school in Nashville. Pearson could be reappointed to the Tennessee House Wednesday, as Justin Jones was on Monday, if a majority of the Shelby County Commission’s 13 members agree to it.

Coming up, Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott says he’s working as swiftly as possible to pardon a U.S. Army sergeant who was just convicted of murdering a Black Lives Matter protester in 2020. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Newly reinstated state Representative Justin Jones singing with Joan Baez “We Shall Overcome” as they met in the airport.

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