Ousted Tennessee state representative Justin Jones (D-Nashville), who was removed from office last week for participating in protests against gun violence, accused the state’s Republican House speaker of leading a “white supremacist system.” ”.
Jones and Democratic state Rep. Justin Pearson (Memphis), both black men, were ousted by the Republican-controlled state House. A resolution to remove state Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville), a white woman, fell short of the required two-thirds majority.
Al Sharpton asked Jones on MSNBC’s “Political Nation” what it meant to have a white colleague join the fight.
“We are building a multiracial fusion movement. We are in the midst of a third Rebuild here in Tennessee that will hopefully have national implications. But what it means is that this white supremacist system run by President Cameron Sexton is an attempt to divide and conquer us,” Jones said.
The trio of Tennessee state lawmakers, nicknamed “the Tennessee Three,” led protests against gun violence after a mass shooting that killed six people at a Nashville elementary school last month.
“But really, you’ll see that we, the Tennessee Three, are still united. Because even though his vote was racist, even though his vote was to oust the two youngest black legislators, his attack on democracy hurts us all, whether you’re black, brown or white. It’s an assault on all of us,” Jones said.
Johnson has also said that she believes only she was spared from being expelled because of her race. “I am a 60-year-old white woman and they are two young black men,” she said..
But not all Tennessee Democrats agree. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) said Sunday that the removal measure “certainly has a racist veneer,” but argued that it was “more of a control issue than a racist one.”
“I don’t think he’s [Sexton] I was fond of either of these two young African-American legislators who have only been there a couple of months, probably not Ms. Johnson either. They are outspoken and do their job of representing their constituents,” Cohen said.
Jones and Pearson have said they will run in special elections to reclaim their state house seats, but could return to represent their respective districts as early as this week if their city councils appoint them on an interim basis.
But Jones said Sunday that he was concerned that Sexton might try to prevent him from returning to the seat from which he was ejected.
“Though this council vote tomorrow, the Speaker has made signs that he may try and refuse to sit me down, so we must remain vigilant. Because it’s not about me, it’s about the 78,000 people in my district who don’t have a representative right now. So I’m serving as a representative in exile, because the people of my district don’t have a vote on that floor of the House right now,” Jones said.
Nashville’s council is set to discuss Jones’ recall on Monday and could vote for an interim representative, while the Shelby County commission chairman is expected to pick a date for an interim vote on Pearson’s vacancy the same day.
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