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back in the house

Justin Pearson reappointed to Tennessee House following expulsion

Justin Pearson, one of the Democratic lawmakers expelled from the Tennessee House last week for leading a gun-control protest, was reappointed to his seat on Wednesday.

The Shelby County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously for him to return to the office on an interim basis. Board officials said they received thousands of phone calls and emails about Pearson, encouraging them to reappoint him to his seat, and during Wednesday's meeting, Commissioner Shante Avant commended Pearson, saying he stood up "for the things that matter to the people of Shelby County and the state of Tennessee. You have done well by us in making sure that our voices can be heard."

On March 30, Pearson and two Democratic colleagues, state Reps. Justin Jones and Gloria Johnson, participated in a protest on the House floor, calling for stricter gun laws in the wake of the mass shooting at Nashville's Covenant School. Three Republican lawmakers filed resolutions to expel Pearson, Jones, and Johnson, saying they engaged in "disorderly behavior" that brought "disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives through their individual and collective actions."

On April 6, the GOP-controlled House expelled Pearson and Jones, while the vote to expel Johnson failed. Pearson and Jones are Black, and Johnson, who is white, told reporters she thinks the different outcomes "might have to do with the color of our skin."

Pearson's reappointment to the House comes two days after the Nashville Metropolitan Council voted to reinstate Jones on an interim basis. Special elections will be held later this year to fill the seats, and both Jones and Pearson have said they will run.

Speaking to supporters on Wednesday, Pearson declared, "You cannot expel hope. You can't expel our voice and you sure can't expel our fight. We look forward to continuing to fight, continuing to advocate."