The Tennessee Three (right) pictured with Vice President Kamala Harris (center) on April 7, 2023. From left to right: Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones, and Justin J. Pearson. Credit: Vice President Kamala Harris via Twitter

In a unanimous vote on Monday, according to various reports, the Tennessee state legislature voted to reinstate Justin Jones to the state House of Representatives, following national outrage after his expulsion last week for participating in a protest for gun control.

In a 36-0 vote, Jones, a Democrat, was reinstated to his seat just days after being booted out of the Tennessee legislature along with fellow Rep. Justin Pearson. Both men are African American in the Republican-controlled state government. Rep Gloria Johnson, a white legislator who also participated in the gun protests, retained her seat and said the removal of Jones and Pearson by the House was racially motivated.

The expulsions ignited local and national protests and outrage and highlighted ongoing debates about race, democracy, and racism. The expulsions mark only the second time in more than 150 years that the state House of Representatives dismissed some or all of its members. Initially, Tennessee Republicans argued the two men disrupted House decorum rules. However, after significant national backlash, the Republicans reversed their decision and reinstated Jones. A similar action to immediately reinstate Pearson to the House is expected by the end of the week.

In a statement to the media on Monday, Jones said, “Today we are sending a resounding message that democracy will not be killed in the confore of silence. Today we send a clear message to Speaker Cameron Sexton that the people will not allow his crimnes against democracy to happen without challenge.”

In Nashville, Marisa Richmond, a professor of History at Middle State Tennessee University, said, “It was good to hear that {a court} issued an injunction against the state’s efforts to downsize the Council and eliminate voices of diversity.” Richmond is a former Metro Human Relations Commission commissioner in Nashville and has worked with Rep. Gloria Johnson.

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