NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The second of two Tennessee Representatives who were expelled from the House was sworn in at the Capitol Thursday morning, one week after their expulsion.
The Shelby County Commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to reappoint Justin J. Pearson to his seat.
Pearson was expelled from his seat on Thursday, April 6 after he and two other representatives, Gloria Johnson and Justin Jones, led chants on the House floor during a gun violence protest last week. The vote to expel Johnson (D—Knoxville) failed by one vote.
The protests came in reaction to the mass shooting at The Covenant School where six people, including three 9-year-old children, were killed.
Collectively, Jones, Pearson, and Johnson have been referred to as the “Tennessee Three.”
Pearson’s mother and father read poetry before he was sworn in at the Legislative Plaza. He then walked up the Capitol steps arm in arm with Jones before he re-entered the chamber as a Representative.
Pearson released a statement Wednesday after he was appointed:
I’m so humbled and grateful to once again represent District 86. Thank you to those who rallied, marched, wrote letters, posted on social media and prayed for this moment. I thank the members of the Shelby County Commission for their courage to do what is right, to protect the representation that voters in District 86 went to the polls twice to earn.
We’ve been through a lot this past week, but the struggle continues and we’re in this together. We’ve seen more than our share of struggles in District 86–exploitation, racism, and all manner of inequities. But we’ve always triumphed because we’ve been on the right side of history. As Dr. King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” We are benders of that arc and justice is what we will achieve–justice for those who mourn the loss of loved ones to gun violence and endure the stubborn racial and financial disparities that have no place in our world.
While speaking to a group outside, Pearson said he was glad to get back to elevating the voices of the three children and three adults who died in a school shooting in Nashville.
Pearson has said the statehouse had been a “toxic work environment.” He noted the scrutiny he received for wearing a black dashiki — a tunic-like garment that originated in west Africa — for session, rather than a suit and tie.
The Metro Council voted to reappoint Jones on Monday, April 10.
Jones is now calling for House Speaker Cameron Sexton’s resignation.
“His [Sexton’s] actions on Thursday — he thought would happen as all his other abuses of power. He thought that no one would pay attention, that no one was watching. That they had ultimate authority, but they forgot that the people would show up and were watching,” said Jones.
A group of Senate Democrats is asking the Justice Department to look into the expulsion of Jones and Pearson. The lawmakers urged the Department to use “all available legal authorities” in investigating the expulsions to determine if the move violated the Constitution or federal civil rights laws.