Tennessee Democrats on Tuesday will press for the reinstatement of the second of two state representatives who were expelled for leading a rule-breaking gun policy protest on the floor of the statehouse, after the first was reinstated on Monday.
Justin Jones pumped his fist and declared “power to the people” as he returned to the state House of Representatives after being restored by the Metropolitan Council of Nashville and Davidson County.
His colleague Justin Pearson, the other young Black legislator who was expelled, could get a similar vote for reinstatement on Wednesday when the Shelby County Board of Commissioners will consider reappointing him to his Memphis district.
“You might try and silence it. You might try and expel it. But the people’s power will not be stopped,” Pearson told supporters outside the council chambers. “This is what democracy looks like.”
Republican lawmakers ousted Jones and Pearson last week for breaking decorum.
The conflict has captured national attention and served as a rallying cry for Democrats over the issues of democracy, gun violence and racial inequality.
Throughout events, Jones and Pearson have attracted big crowds like the one that joined them on March 30 to protest Republican gun policies following the March 27 school shooting in Nashville that killed three 9-year-old school children and three adults.
On Monday, about 600 protesters gathered outside the Metropolitan Council as it voted 36-0 on Monday to make Jones, 27, the interim representative.
The vote set off a celebration as supporters shouted “Whose house? Our house!” and “No Justin, no peace” while displaying signs that read, “Protect kids, not guns” and “Stop sales of AR15.”
Many of them followed Jones to the statehouse, surrounding him as he was sworn in on the steps and cheering as he reclaimed his seat.
Republican lawmakers have remained largely silent since voting to oust Jones and Pearson. During the debate they underscored the severity of disrupting the normal course of business and drowning out representatives with differing views.
They still hold a 75-23 supermajority and have shown little concern for reprisal from voters. They kicked out Jones and Pearson but came up one vote short of the two-thirds majority needed to expel Representative Gloria Johnson, a white woman who joined Jones and Pearson in the demonstration but unlike them did not break the rule of speaking through a megaphone.