Democratic state Reps. Gloria Johnson of Knoxville and Justin Jones of Nashville raise their arms in defiance

Democratic state Reps. Gloria Johnson of Knoxville and Justin Jones of Nashville raise their arms in defiance after a vote that expelled Jones from the Tennessee House on April 6, 2023.

(Photo: Seth Herald/Getty Images)

Jones Says He Will Fight 'Unconstitutional' Expulsion as Reinstatement Votes Loom

"It wasn't about us, it was about expelling the voices of those young people, expelling a movement," the former Tennessee state lawmaker said. "They've done the opposite."

Former Tennessee State Rep. Justin Jones said Friday that he intends to challenge his expulsion in the courts and at the ballot box amid uncertainty about the path ahead for him and fellow removed Rep. Justin Pearson, whose decision to stand in solidarity with constituents protesting the scourge of gun violence drew national attention and praise.

In an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Jones said he believes his expulsion Thursday at the hands of Tennessee House Republicans was "unconstitutional" and that he's exploring legal action.

The Nashville Democrat also said he'll be watching the proceedings of his city's 40-seat Metro Council, which is scheduled to meet on Monday to decide on who will fill the vacancy left by Jones' expulsion until a special election for the seat is held.

Jones is eligible to run in the special election, whether or not he's reappointed by the Metro Council.

While more than a dozen members of the Nashville council have said they would support reappointing Jones, the lawmaker said Friday that it's unclear whether the Republican-dominated Tennessee House would agree to seat him.

"We've heard from the other side that they may not seat us, even if our council appoints us, even if we win a special election," Jones said. "Then we'll see another affront to democracy."

The Memphis City Council is also expected to hold a special meeting in the coming days to determine how to fill the vacancy left by Pearson's expulsion. One commissioner, Miska Clay Bibbs, said Thursday that "when given the opportunity, I will support returning [Pearson] to his seat."

Like Jones, Pearson is also eligible to run in the coming special election for his old seat.

During his MSNBC appearance Friday, Jones said he hopes people across the U.S. are paying attention to developments in his home state because "if it can happen in Tennessee, it can happen anywhere."

Watch the full interview:

Former Tennessee State Rep. Justin Jones on MSNBC(Screenshot)

Whatever the near future holds for Jones and Pearson in the Tennessee Legislature, the young lawmakers' bold stand for action against gun violence and outspoken opposition to the state GOP's political retaliation made them instant icons in a burgeoning national movement born out of deadly mass shootings like the one that left three children dead in Nashville last week.

"I've gotten to do a little bit of organizing with Justin Pearson, who was just expelled by the Tennessee House. Let me say: he will go farther and do more good than any of the people remaining in that chamber," environmentalist Bill McKibben wrote following Thursday's vote. "You ding-dongs have just launched a rocket."

As Jones put it on Friday: "It wasn't about us, it was about expelling the voices of those young people, expelling a movement. They've done the opposite."

Jones' campaign operation sprung into immediate action following his removal.The Tennessean reported that while "members of the Legislature are not allowed to fundraise during the legislative session," Jones reactivated his campaign fundraising site "within hours of his expulsion."

If Jones and/or Pearson are reelected and seated, they cannot be expelled again for the same offense, The Tennessean noted. The approved expulsion resolutions accused the two lawmakers of bringing "disorder and dishonor" to the House.

"They're going to do what they do," Pearson said of the Tennessee House's Republican majority ahead of Thursday's expulsion votes. "We have to keep fighting. If we never quit, we never lose."

"They want you to stop clapping, they want you to stop marching, they want you to stop protesting, they want you to stop saying that kids' lives matter, they want you to stop saying that we need to end the gun violence epidemic," Pearson continued. "But what we have to prove by our consistent and persistent effort on this issue is that Tennessee can be a better place than it currently is, and you shouldn't have to be afraid to go to school or go to the grocery store."

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