Reinstate Black Representative Expelled for Peacefully Protesting Gun Violence

Target: Mickell Lowery, Chair of Shelby County, TN Board of Commissioners

Goal: Support reinstatement of lawmaker expelled for taking part in protest for gun safety reform.

On the same day that the United States experienced its 146th mass shooting of the year (this time, in Kentucky), young lawmakers from the state where the previous high-profile shooting took place are fighting for their jobs. Tennessee state representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were expelled from their positions by their Republican colleagues, who hold a supermajority in the chamber. What was their awful offense? It was not bribery, sexual assault, or other felonies for which this highly unusual action is typically reserved. Rather, these men—along with colleague Gloria Johnson—dared to call for gun safety reform in a house that wants to ignore and dismiss the issue, even after the most innocent of lives were lost.

These lawmakers were serving as the voice for the plentiful peaceful protesters who have spoken out since the school shooting in Nashville. Parents of the victims, as well as many of the 200,000 citizens whose votes were disenfranchised by these expulsions, showed up in support when the meeting took place, to no avail. Both Jones and Pearson were expelled, while Johnson—the only white member of the Tennessee Three—was spared her job. The racial dimensions of these expulsions have come under sharp criticism, as has the fact that these lawmakers represent regions with large minority populations.

The ejected representatives could soon recapture their seats by way of a special election. Their respective city councils could aid them even sooner by appointing them as interim representatives until the election is held. Despite threats from the state legislature that their city would be punished with withheld funds, the Nashville Council of Justin Jones’ district has already taken this action.

Sign the petition below to urge Memphis’ county legislators to do the same for Representative Pearson and to restore democracy.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Chair Lowery,

“He’s black, he has our interests at heart, and he gets removed for protesting.” So lamented one citizen after the expulsion of Representatives Jones and Pearson. “They took our representative away from us. It’s like our vote doesn’t matter.” And so spoke another citizen. These statements sum up the frustration and anger residents of Nashville and Memphis feel after this unprecedented act in the name of “decorum.” The fact that these representatives were speaking out on behalf of community members devastated by the latest mass shooting—only to be ignored and dismissed—only heightens the sense of injustice.

You have condemned these expulsions, and now the Shelby County board you lead has the opportunity to rectify this injustice. The Nashville Council has already helped restore Representative Jones to his seat. They took this needed step despite threats from a state legislature still trying to obstruct the will of the people. Please stand with Nashville and echo their show of support by reinstating Representative Pearson to the position to which he was widely elected by your constituents.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Executive Office of the President of the United States


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