Friday, 24 May 2024

Justin Pearson reappointed to Tennessee state House

State Rep. Justin Pearson. Photo: Seth Herald/Getty Images

The Shelby County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to send state Rep. Justin Pearson back to Nashville.

Driving the news: Republicans expelled Pearson (D-Memphis) and state Rep. Justin Jones (D-Nashville) from the Tennessee House last week for violating decorum rules by leading protest chants for gun control from the chamber podium in the wake of The Covenant School shooting.

  • Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville), who protested alongside Jones and Pearson, avoided expulsion by one vote.
  • Republicans were criticized for ousting elected officials who were protesting peacefully. It also spurred allegations of racism as Pearson and Jones are both Black. Johnson is white.
  • Local boards tasked with filling Jones' and Pearson's seats acted quickly to reappoint them. Nashville's Metro Council voted on Monday.

State of play: At the short Shelby County meeting Wednesday, commissioners said constituents overwhelmingly called on them to restore Pearson to his post.

  • "We need you here right now, in this moment, to continue your fight for us in Nashville," Commissioner Erika Sugarmon said.
  • "Stay encouraged, stay focused and keep up the good trouble."

What he's saying: Before the commissioners adjourned, Pearson vowed to continue speaking out on issues of gun violence and reform.

  • "You can't expel our voice and you sure can't expel our fight," Pearson said.
  • "We look forward to continuing to fight, continuing to advocate until justice rolls down like water," he added. "Let's get back to work."

The bottom line: Jones returned to the House Monday. Pearson is expected to come back Thursday.

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