Justin J. Pearson sworn in as interim representative of District 86

Published: Apr. 13, 2023 at 7:53 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 13, 2023 at 11:17 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Justin J. Pearson was sworn in on Thursday as the state interim representative of District 86.

This comes one week after being expelled from his position for protesting at the state Capitol in support of stricter gun legislation the week of the Covenant School shooting in Nashville.

He and Rep. Justin Jones of Nashville both lost their seats due to “breaking decorum” on the House floor. Knoxville Representative Gloria Johnson, who also partook in the demonstration, survived the April 6 expulsion vote.

The three Democrats are now being called “The Tennessee Three.”

On Monday, Jones was reinstated after a unanimous vote by the Metro Council of Nashville.

After Wednesday’s similar vote for Pearson, both will be back in the Tennessee State House, representing those who voted for them.

Pearson says he has a renewed purpose fueled by so many of the people who returned to Nashville to see him take the oath of office for a second time.

”Yall stand up here. Yeah, I need all the representatives to step back, this a people power movement,” said Pearson just before he was sworn back into office. ”I’m so glad I’m fighting to be fighting for you, to be marching with you, because victory is ours!”

Pearson held his swearing-in ceremony at the Legislative Plaza, across the street from the state Capitol.

A bus full of supporters came from Memphis to support him along with a number of Shelby County lawmakers.

Also in the crowd at Pearson’s swearing-in ceremony was a woman from Nashville who played a pivotal role in the initial protest that led to the lawmaker being expelled.

“On the Monday of the Covenant shooting... I sat in my kitchen, powerless, and terrified, and I was just tired of being powerless,” said Maryam Albolfazi.

On March 27, six people, including three children, were shot and killed inside the private Nashville School.

Albolfazi helped organize the protest that sent hundreds of other angry moms and kids to the Capitol steps and into the rotunda.

”We wanted to be civil, but we didn’t want business as usual, and we were outside and they were just talking about transportation on the House floor and everyone said, ‘Look, this is powerful what we’ve got here, but they’ve got to stop and talk about what’s going on,’” said Albolfazi.

She says the crowd was hoping lawmakers could hear the chants and singing happening outside.

Many lawmakers came outside to greet them.

”So, I know at some point, we know Justin and Justin and Gloria were like, ‘We have to listen to these people,’” said Albolfazi.

The so-called Tennessee Three protested from the House floor in support of stricter gun restrictions, leading to the eventual effort to remove them by the GOP supermajority.

Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, and Rep. Justin Pearson,...
Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, and Rep. Justin Pearson, D-Memphis, raise their hands outside the House chamber after Jones and Pearson were expelled from the legislature, Thursday, April 6, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn.(AP Photo/George Walker IV)

The day he was expelled, Pearson walked into the state Capitol with ease; now, he’s followed by security and a slew of media.

When asked what that felt like, Pearson said, “The weight of this moment that our democracy was thrown into... a disarray by the Republican Party of the State of Tennessee because we want to end gun violence... and tonight, we go back with a renewed sense of commitment.”

On Wednesday, the Shelby County Commission voted to reappoint Pearson to his District 86 seat.

The seven commissioners who showed up to vote in support of sending Pearson back to the state house were all Democrats.

No Republican commissioners showed up for the vote.

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