Metro Council to vote on expelled representative’s House seat

Justin Jones was expelled from the Tennessee State House on Thursday, March 6.
The Nashville Metro Council is scheduled to meet on Monday and vote on whether to reinstate or replace former state representative Justin Jones.
Published: Apr. 10, 2023 at 1:13 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 10, 2023 at 8:02 AM EDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - The Nashville Metro Council is scheduled to meet on Monday and vote on whether to reinstate or replace former state representative Justin Jones, who was expelled from the House last week.

A protest by hundreds of Nashville students and activists demanding stricter gun laws on March 30 took a turn when three Tennessee State Representatives jumped in. Former Rep. Justin Jones, former Rep. Justin Pearson, and Rep. Gloria Johnson interrupted the House agenda and began chanting with the crowd in the balcony from the floor. Jones used a bullhorn to lead the cries of protest.

“A speaker and leadership in the state house said this was so much of a breach of decorum, we’re not just going to strip you of committee assignments, we’re going to literally expel you from the body,” Metro Council Member Freddie O’Connell said.

O’Connell said days after the protest he watched in awe as house leaders voted on expulsions.

“We get to the first expulsion vote and I’m standing there in the state capital and thought surely they’re not going to do this,” O’Connell said.

Protesters filled the gallery as leaders voted to expel Jones and Pearson from the State House, but what shocked many is that by one vote, leaders failed to expel, Knoxville Representative Gloria Johnson.

“The two black representatives were expelled and the one white representative that was also accused was not,” O’Connell said.

Rep. Jody Barrett (R-Dickson), Rep. Rush Bricken (R-Tullahoma), Rep. Lowell Russell (R-Vonore), Rep. Mike Sparks (R-Smyrna), and Rep. Sam Whitson (R-Franklin), were the five Republican lawmakers who voted against Rep. Jones and Rep. Pearson, but in support of Rep. Johnson, which allowed her to maintain her House seat.

Rep. Russell said he made his decision to keep Rep. Johnson in the House because she did not participate in protests in the same way as former Reps. Jones and Pearson did.

He said Rep. Johnson did not appear to do anything other than stand near the Well and move her lips, while Jones and Pearson were the two who used a bullhorn to “shout and scream.”

“While Johnson needs to be censored for her unacceptable conduct that day, the evidence presented did not warrant her expulsion,” Rep. Russell said. “Had all three participated the same, I would have voted to expel all three.”

A number of Metro Council members are planning to push for Jones’s reinstatement saying the expulsion was just wrong.

“When you go to the ballot box and choose the person you want to represent you for someone to come behind that vote and essentially take it away that’s undemocratic that’s not how we’re supposed to operate as a government,” Metro Council Member Kyonzte Toombs said.

Ahead of a special called Metro Council meeting Monday, 23 of the 40 Metro Council members have tweeted that they plan on voting to reinstate Jones.

“Justin has a very important voice on this topic that we’ve been talking about which is gun control and school safety and whatnot. And so, we need him back there,” Metro Council Member Jeff Syracuse said.

While Jones waits for the final vote, he says the fight for change isn’t over.

“Their decision to expel us is not the ultimate authority but that the people will hold them accountable both at the county level and the special election going forward through our legal process,” Former State Representative Justin Jones.

The Metro Council meeting is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Monday. A simple majority vote is needed to send Jones back to his seat.

O’Connell organized several rallies in support of the Jones on Monday. He expects people to gather at Public Square ahead of the meeting, with a march to the Capitol following the vote.