Voters on Thursday reinstated a Tennessee Democrat who was expelled earlier this year from the State Legislature, leading him to declare victory over the "status quo of white supremacy" and "status quo of patriarchy."
"It is a good testament to the power of democracy and what a community and what community against the status quo of white supremacy, against the status quo of patriarchy, can do," state representative Justin Pearson, who represents parts of Memphis and won a special election this week to serve the remainder of his term, told Scripps News.
Voters on Thursday also returned Pearson's fellow Democratic representative Justin Jones to the Legislature, a move that he said sends "a message to extremist Republicans."
The Tennessee House earlier this year expelled Pearson and Jones for violating the chamber's rules during a protest over gun violence. Pearson and Jones used a bullhorn to lead protesters who were swarming the chamber, drawing comparisons to the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot. Videos taken at the scene showed protesters "charging at police officers, joining the three Democrats in screaming chants, and blocking a doorway to prevent lawmakers from exiting," the Washington Free Beacon reported.
Republicans who expelled the two men said Pearson and Jones's conduct disrupted the work of the House and was a severe breach of decorum. A third Democrat, Gloria Johnson, joined the protest but narrowly escaped expulsion.
The event took place on March 30 following a Nashville school shooting, committed by a transgender person, that killed three children and three adults.
Within a few days, local officials in Pearson's district voted to return him to his seat under a provision in the state constitution that lets district-level officials fill legislative vacancies until they hold special elections. Pearson and Jones won their districts' special elections on Thursday.