Justin Pearson, Tennessee Democrat Expelled for Gun Control Protest, Is Reinstated

The vote to return Pearson back comes days after Rep. Justin Jones was also reappointed.

George Walker/AP

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Days after Nashville officials unanimously voted to reinstate Rep. Justin Jones, one of two Black Democrats expelled last week for participating in a gun control protest, the Shelby County Commission on Wednesday voted to reappoint Justin Pearson to Tennessee’s House of Representatives. 

Pearson, Jones, as well as Rep. Gloria Johnson, were thrust into the national spotlight last month after the three lawmakers, all Democrats, demonstrated in solidarity with Tennesseans demanding gun control after a mass shooting killed six people, including three nine-year-olds, at The Covenant School in Nashville. Johnson, a white woman, was subjected to a similar vote calling for her expulsion but was ultimately spared from removal. When asked why she survived the vote, Johnson suggested that her skin color had likely played a role.

“Is what’s happening outside these doors by Tennesseans who want to see change a ‘temper tantrum’?” Pearson said in a speech responding to Republican complaints that their protest was tantamount to a “temper tantrum.”

“Is elevating our voices for justice or change a temper tantrum?” Pearson added: “I personally don’t want attention. What I want is attention on the issue of gun violence.” 

The reappointments of Pearson and Jones are a victory for those who saw their removals as anti-democratic. But the threat of political retaliation remains. Democratic commissioner Erika Sugarmon told Mother Jones’ Garrison Hayes before the vote to return Pearson to his seat that she was worried that Tennessee’s Republican majority state government would withhold infrastructural funding should Pearson get reappointed. 

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