PoliticsPolitical Scandals


Local officials seek to reinstate two expelled legislators

Scripps News sat down with one council member who says it’s possible they could reinstate expelled Rep. Justin Jones back to the State House.
Posted at 7:20 PM, Apr 08, 2023

Two Democratic lawmakers in Tennessee were expelled for protesting on the House floor for stronger gun laws after a mass school shooting left six people dead, including three children in Nashville.

In Nashville, Metro Council members are going to hold a special meeting on Monday to decide who will fill that now-vacant House seat.

Scripps News sat down with one council member who says it’s possible they could reinstate expelled State Rep. Justin Jones back to the State House.

The Republican-led House of Representatives has expelled Tennessee State Representatives Jones and Justin Pearson from the legislature. 

State Rep. Gloria Johnson joined their protest but avoided expulsion by one vote.

Protesters are calling them the "Tennessee Three."

"We hope people return to this capitol on Monday because this is just the beginning. That when they expelled us, it wasn't about us individually; it was an attempt to expel and silence a movement," Jones said.

Rep. Gloria Johnson with former Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson.

State Rep. Gloria Johnson: Race played a role in colleagues' expulsion

The Tennessee state representative tells Scripps News the expulsion is "an assault on democracy."


The trio led a raucous protest using a bullhorn on the House floor after thousands of students arrived at the State Capitol protesting for stricter gun laws just days after The Covenant School mass shooting, just 10 miles away.

All three lawmakers admitted they broke House rules by speaking without being formally recognized, but argued the punishment didn’t fit the crime.

"We had an admitted child molester on the floor, and they did nothing to expel that member," Rep. Johnson told Scripps News on Morning Rush. 

Johnson added: "It was an assault on democracy for the way that they ran it, for the way that they had the rules."

President Joe Biden called the expulsions "shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent."

Vice President Kamala Harris made a surprise visit to Nashville on Friday to stand with the "Tennessee Three" and demand gun reform.

"They chose to lead and showed courage to say that a democracy allows for places where the people's voice will be heard and honored, and respected," Harris said. "And they understood the importance, these three, standing to say the people will not be silenced."

There’s still a chance Jones and Pearson could be back in their House seats.

The chairman of the Shelby County Commission said he would look into whether Pearson can be reappointed to the now-open House seat.

Tennessee state lawmakers Justin Pearson, left, Gloria Johnson and Justin Jones raise their hands.

Tennessee House votes to expel 2 Democratic lawmakers

Three Democrats faced expulsion after leading a protest at the Tennessee State Capitol last week following a Nashville school shooting.


As for Jones, the majority of the Nashville Metro Council says they plan to vote to send Jones back to the State House. A council meeting is scheduled for Monday to determine who will serve as interim until a special election takes place. Jones is eligible to run in the special election. 

Freddie O’Connell, a member of the Nashville Metro Council, said he’ll vote to reinstate Jones if given the opportunity.

"He was elected by the voters of District 52 to serve that district. And again, if you look at the absurdity of the reasons for the expulsion, I mean, you could hear his colleagues, you could hear members of the general public, and you're continuing to see journalists and people covering this who've recounted the history to show, in stark contrast, the actions of him and the Tennessee three altogether do not justify this action by the State House," O’Connell tells Scripps News.

O'Connell said Jones could be back in session as early as Monday evening.