In a high-speed “karma boomerang” delectable to see, Rep. Justin Jones, expelled for daring to protest the slaughter of America’s children, made a triumphant return to the GOP-majority House after Nashville officials unanimously reappointed him. Sweet justice: As Jones strode in to reclaim his seat, he was met by cheering supporters and scowling, butthurt good ole boys, “big mad in they seats,” who had messed around only to find out they’d “awakened the people” and ensured Jones “will never go away.”
In a grim irony, the return of Jones, expelled last week along with Rep. Justin Pearson for what Republican lawmakers deemed “disorderly behavior”—aka standing with distraught protesters seeking common-sense gun reform—came on the same day as yet another mass shooting, live-streamed in Louisville, that killed at least five people.
It was the 146th mass shooting in a year that’s 100 days old. Thursday’s expulsion of Jones and Pearson—both black, 27, and fiery orators—had been blasted by attorneys as “extraordinary, illegal, and without any historical or legal precedent”; Gloria Johnson, the only white member of the Tennessee Three, held onto her seat by one vote.
In a sharp rebuke to the GOP’s 72-25 expulsion vote—and amidst rumors the Three would come back together “one Justin at a time”—all 36 members of Nashville’s Metropolitan Council voted to reinstate Jones to his seat representing District 52. “(The GOP) removed the voice of 140,000 people who voted for them,” said Council Member Burkley Allen. “It’s a terrible precedent to set that we disagree with you (and) therefore we’re expelling you. That’s not the way democracy works.”
Before the Council vote, Jones supporters gathered outside to call for gun reform and chant “No Justin, No Peace”; after the vote, loud cheers rang out. Jones then led a march back to the State House to be re-instated amidst chants of, “This is what democracy looks like” and “Whose house? Our house.” Jones spoke to the crowd: “This is not about one person…It’s about a movement of people empowered to restore the soul of what this building should represent, and that is democracy.”
After being sworn in, Jones walked through the Capitol halls as people followed singing Odetta’s civil-rights anthem, “This Little Light of Mine.” He entered the House chamber arm-in-arm with Johnson to cheers from supporters in the gallery; when Speaker Cameron Sexton pounded his gavel to shut them down, one guy loudly yelled, “Fuck your gavel.”
Meanwhile, the old white crackers of the GOP sat, sullen and stolid, ignoring Jones, their racist loathing palpable. Viewers noted the malignant vibe: “Lookit all those haters hating…They’re all thinking, ‘Well, fuck, THAT backfired…I believe (a) few just urinated in their own chairs. Fret not, no consequences .”
Jones was called upon to speak by Sexton, who, gavel notwithstanding, was strikingly subdued—perhaps because he reportedly may face charges of election residency fraud, or because he’d been warned in a scathing letter from attorneys that, after their expulsion, the House “must not now compound its errors by further retributive actions,” including a rumored plan to withhold funding if Pearson is also reinstated. “The world is watching,” they wrote. “Any partisan retributive action, such as the discriminatory treatment of elected officials, (will) constitute further unconstitutional action that would require redress.”
In his speech, Jones welcomed “democracy back to the people’s house…Today we stand as witness (to) a resurrection of a movement of a multi-racial democracy.” He also thanked the old racist men “for awakening the people of this state, particularly the young people. Thank you for reminding us that the struggle for justice is fought and won in every generation.” As if in poignant proof, on Sunday Jones had run into Joan Baez at the airport. He asked to sing with her, and they began, “We Shall Overcome.” But before the end, Baez started crying.
“I want to see young people in America feel the spirit of the 1960s (and) find a way to get in trouble. Good trouble, necessary trouble.” — John Lewis
When you get off the plane with the legendary Joan Baez you know it’s a movement of the spirit. She stands with us in our struggle in Tennessee and said she’s hopeful to see young voices leading.
“WE SHALL OVERCOME…”
Serendipitous, indeed. pic.twitter.com/f4bj5akUte
— Rep. Justin Jones (@brotherjones_) April 9, 2023
Common Dreams has been providing breaking news & views for the progressive community since 1997. They are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.