Rep. Justin Jones is escorted to the courthouse elevator after being reappointed.

By Austin Newell

NASHVILLE, TN — After an historic expulsion vote earlier this month, Rep. Justin Jones has been reinstated to the Tennessee House.

The expulsion, which came after Jones was joined by Reps. Gloria Johnson and Justin Pearson in the well to protest for gun reform, was decried by many as a severe punishment for what amounted to a breach of house decorum.  

Rep. Justin Jones is sworn in on the steps of the state capitol building.

When a member is expelled, a vote must be held by the council of the county the representative represented to appoint a replacement. It had been heavily implied before the vote that Jones would be this replacement, effectively bringing him right back to the seat he was expelled from.

Crowds of protestors gathered at Public Square Park last Monday, just outside the Metro Nashville Courthouse, as a show of support for Jones’s reappointment. Many of the signs held by the protestors read “No Justin, no peace,” a play on words of earlier chants by protestors of “No justice, no peace.”

Before the doors to the building were opened, organizers gave words of support to both the expelled reps and the movement they have come to symbolize.

“This is a pivotal moment in our collective history,” said Pastor Davie Tucker Jr. “Justin Jones was elected as a representative from Nashville, because this is our city and our future.”

One of the speakers, Jones himself, thanked the crowd for their support and also announced that he was calling on House Speaker Cameron Sexton to resign.

“I think, I hope, I believe, and I pray that today marks a step towards real democracy in this state. I hope that we send a clear message to my colleagues, or my former or soon to be colleagues and the legislature that we will not allow these attacks on democracy to happen in the cover of silence,” Jones said. “[A]nd my message to Cameron Sexton is your attack on democracy, thank you, because it has galvanized the nationwide movement starting here in Nashville that is having international repercussions.”

Rep. Justin Pearson arrives at the state capitol building ahead of Jones’s swearing in.

Once the doors to the Metro Nashville Courthouse opened, the courtyard outside emptied as Jones’s supporters slowly filed into the building, many hoping to get inside the chamber to witness the vote. 

The mood inside could be described as both tense and optimistic. Supporters of Jones lined the hallway leading into the chamber, mostly still aside from the occasional shuffling of feet as they moved up to the meeting. Those in attendance did not have to wait long,  however, as less than half an hour after the building doors were opened, Jones had been reappointed to his seat in a unanimous vote of 36-0.

Upon hearing the news, the hall of the Metro City Council building erupted into cheers. Jones, after exiting the side door of the council chamber, held his fist in the air as he and his team rushed to the elevator to head downstairs. 

Jones and his supporters then marched to the State Capitol Building down MLK Boulevard, whereupon the building’s steps he was to be sworn in once again. Fellow legislators looked down at the gathering crowd from the capitol building’s balcony. Jones was joined by the two other members of the ‘Tennessee Three’: Reps Johnson, who had narrowly escaped expulsion, and Pearson, who at the time of Jones’s reappointment had not been reinstated.

As supporters gathered around Jones in a tight circle, and after short speeches by Jones and Pearson, the expelled rep placed his hand on a bible and took his oath. Of all the chants heard that day, perhaps the loudest was the one that was shouted by the gathered crowd directly afterwards: “Welcome Home.”

Now Jones is to serve in the House once again until a special election is held, whereby both seats held by Jones and Pearson (who was reinstated last Wednesday) will be up for grabs. Both reps will be able to run for their own seats in the upcoming election.