Tennessee state Rep. Justin Jones (D) might be making a quick comeback after GOP lawmakers ousted him and his colleague, Rep. Justin Pearson (D), from the state House on Thursday.
Jones and Pearson, both Black, and one other Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Gloria Johnson — who is white and was not voted out — participated in a protest inside the House chamber following a mass shooting that left three children and three adults dead at a private Christian school in Nashville on March 27. Republicans, who carry a two-thirds majority in the state House, reacted by voting to expel Jones and Pearson.
Jones and Pearson were removed immediately and forced to give up their committee assignments, leaving their seats vacant. County legislative bodies can fill those vacancies — and in Jones’ case, the Nashville Metropolitan Council appears to have the votes necessary to reinstate him to his position, according to The Tennessean.
Twenty-three of 40 members on the council confirmed to NBC News that they’d vote to reinstate Jones. They could cast the vote as soon as Monday, during a special meeting set up to discuss the vacancy.
Jones told CNN on Friday that he doesn’t see it as the end of his political career.
“This extreme tactic to expel us and try to humiliate us has only put a spotlight of the world on Tennessee, and so I will go back because … it’s worth whatever sacrifice that we have to give, whether it’s being expelled, whether it’s being in a hostile environment,” Jones said.
On Thursday, Jones spoke to lawmakers during the hearing: “What we see today is just a spectacle. What we see today is a lynch mob assembled not to lynch me, but our democratic process.”
He continued: “I was standing for young people ― many of whom can’t even vote yet, many who are disenfranchised ― but all of whom are terrified by the continued trend of mass shootings plaguing our state and plaguing this nation.”
In a statement after the votes, the Tennessee House GOP Caucus called the protest “disrespectful” and disruptive.
“If elected to come back and serve their constituents in the Tennessee House of Representatives, we hope they will act as the thousands who have come before them — with respect for our institution, their fellow colleagues, and the seat that they hold,” the statement continued.
But the expulsion caught the eyes of President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama, both of whom condemned it.
“Three kids and three officials gunned down in yet another mass shooting. And what are GOP officials focused on? Punishing lawmakers who joined thousands of peaceful protesters calling for action. It’s shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent,” Biden tweeted Thursday.
“No elected official should lose their job simply for raising their voice – especially when they’re doing it on behalf of our children,” Obama tweeted.