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NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 10: State Rep. Justin Jones (R) watches a

Source: The Washington Post / Getty

Justin Jones, one of the two Black Democrat representatives expelled by Republicans last week from the Tennessee House, was sworn back in.

On Monday (April 10th), members of the Nashville city council held a special session to return Jones to the legislature. After a prayer by council member Zulfat Suara for the six lives lost in the Covenant school shooting as well as those lost in a mass shooting in Kentucky that day, the vote was unanimously in favor of Jones, 36-0. An hour later, he returned to the state capitol surrounded by hundreds of supporters and took his oath on the steps.

“I want to welcome democracy back to the people’s house,” he said after returning to his old desk. “No expulsion, no attempt to silence us will stop us, but it will only galvanize and strengthen our movement,” he said, concluding with: “Power to the people!” The move by the Nashville city council members was done so swiftly that Jones hadn’t missed a floor session of the Tennessee House.

House majority leader William Lamberth & House Republican caucus chairman Jeremy Faison issued a statement before the vote saying that “should any expelled member be reappointed, we will welcome them.” A vote to reinstate Rep. Pearson was scheduled to be held by the Shelby County Board of Commissioners in Memphis on Wednesday (April 12th). Both lawmakers have expressed that they will run in special elections to be held later this year to permanently obtain their seats.

Jones, along with Pearson and Rep. Gloria Johnson, were targeted by the Republican majority of the legislative body for expulsion last Thursday (April 6th). The vote took place a week after the three lawmakers had taken to the House floor and interrupted a session by demanding action be taken on gun violence, using megaphones to lead protesters. Jones and Pearson would be expelled through a vote, while Johnson (who is white) was spared, prompting her to cite racism as the reason her fellow Democrats were kicked out. 

The move by the Republican majority of the House, something that had only been done twice since the Civil War, sparked local and nationwide outrage all the way to the White House, as President Joe Biden expressed his anger and Vice President Kamala Harris made a surprise trip to Nashville to speak at Fisk University in support of the lawmakers. Lawyers for Jones and Pearson, including former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, sent a letter warning against retaliation to House Speaker Cameron Sexton.