Crowds celebrate as Justin J. Pearson is reinstated; Action News 5 captures the moments after the history-making vote

Published: Apr. 12, 2023 at 11:54 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 13, 2023 at 4:26 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Shelby County Election Commission voted Wednesday to reinstate Justin Pearson as District 86 House Representative.

At noon ahead of the vote, the Committee to Reelect former Representative Justin J. Pearson hosted a rally and march beginning at the National Civil Rights Museum and ending at the County Administration Building.

Also in attendance was the Shelby County Democratic Party, Memphis for All, Shelby County Young Democrats, Planned Parenthood of Tennessee, Black Lifestyle Advocates for Culture and Knowledge and the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC).

Pearson and another house member, Justin Jones, were expelled for knowingly breaking house rules, disrupting business for more than an hour on the house floor, and protesting for more gun control with a bullhorn.

Earlier this week, Jones was reinstated via a unanimous vote by the council in Nashville.

In order for Pearson to get his seat back, he needed votes from seven Shelby County commissioners for reappointment. There are 13 Shelby County Commissioners; nine are Democrats and four are Republicans.

Representative Pearson received exactly seven votes, officially reelecting him to the TN House of Representatives.

“All the ways you all have advocated, we appreciate,” said Comissioner Shante Avent. “But know that the conscience of the body is that we want to make sure we are represented in the best way and I think that we have that in you, Representative Pearson.”

Republican commissioners Brandon Morrison, Amber Mills, David Bradford, and Mick Wright were absent from today’s meeting.

Wright took to social media, saying he did not support Pearson’s actions on the House floor on March 30th, when Pearson and representatives Justin Jones and Gloria Johnson joined protesters for stricter gun laws.

Wright said he would leave Wednesday’s vote up to his fellow commissioners.

Democrats Britney Thornton and Michael Whaley were out of town but expressed their desire to reappoint Pearson.

“Now that the Shelby County Commission has done their job,” Pearson said. “I’m so glad we get to go back to doing our job.”

Pearson is preparing to be sworn in as the interim representative for District 86. His plans are aimed at the reason he was protesting, gun reform legislation.

“Gun violence is proliferating in our communities because of decisions by the people in positions of power who refuse to do something. We must act in this moment and do something,” said Pearson. “I believe the people in Tennessee and across this country are saying this is the moment and now is the time.”

Pearson is expected to be sworn in at the state capitol in Nashville, Thursday at 8:30 AM.

He will have 15 new bills to file once he’s sworn in, again.

The crowd let out cheers as Pearson addressed the public in a statement of triumph, our own Kelli Cooke quotes:

Pearson along with his colleagues were full of spirit and elation; he at one moment held up a newspaper citing the victory:

Still, there is quite the road ahead for Pearson. With his ambitions still steadfast and intact, his message for the Republican lawmakers is strong as ever.

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