Who is Justin Jones? Democrat expelled from Tennessee House of Representatives over mass shootings

Justin Jones was one of two Tennessee expelled legislators of the state House of Representatives by a Republican majority following a protest gun violence that made its way onto the house floor last week. Jones is just 27 – one of the youngest members of the state legislature and took office in 2022. Jones captured national attention after his impassioned speech in the House on Thursday.

He and two other Democratic lawmakers – Representatives Justin Pearson and Gloria Johnson – led protesters in a “power to the people” chant in the chamber during a protest after a mass shooting killed six people at a Nashville school last month.

Republican lawmakers accused them of breaking House rules on conduct and decorum and voted to expel Jones and Pearson, 28, who are both black. Johnson, who is a white woman, was not deported. Johnson told CNN that Jones and Pearson’s expulsion “may have to do with the color” of their skin.

“A state in which the Ku Klux Klan was founded is now attempting another power grab by silencing the two youngest black representatives,” Jones told the House ahead of the vote to expel him.

Three Tennessee lawmakers face deportation after joining anti-gun protest
Democratic State Rep. Justin Jones of Nashville gestures during a vote on his expulsion from the state legislature at the State Capitol Building April 6, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Seth Herald/Getty Images

Jones has been involved in numerous high-profile protests in the state capitol and “has been fighting for justice since childhood,” according to his campaign website. He graduated from Fisk University, an HBCU in Nashville, where he campaigned to repeal Tennessee’s restrictive voter ID laws and expand Medicaid in the state. He also attended Vanderbilt Divinity School for his graduate studies.

In 2019, Jones attended a protest to remove a statue of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, an early Klan leader, from display in the state Capitol. During the protest, Jones allegedly threw a cup of cash at Republican State Rep. Glen Casada. Jones was charged with two counts of misdemeanor assault and one count of disorderly conduct, according to The Tennessean.

Lawmakers also tried to ban him from the Capitol building, saying he posed a “danger to public safety.” A judge blocked the ban.

Casada, who tweeted the video of the incident, agreed that Jones’ criminal charges would be dropped if Jones met certain conditions, including not contacting Casada and other lawmakers involved in the incident.

Jones has been kicked out or arrested in other protests, including a 2020 protest for police reform following the death of George Floyd. Several protesters were charged during the daylong protest, during which they flocked to the state capitol building. many accusations, including initial Jones feewere dropped, according to the Tennessean.

But a year later, Jones faced additional charges for allegedly throwing a traffic cone at a car during the protest. The video of the moment was posted, but Jones wrote in a tweet that it didn’t show the whole incident, saying the man in the car was “shouting racial slurs and pushing his car into protesters.”

“They will try to push a false narrative portraying me as ‘violent’ as a way to distract from their own actions”, Jones wrote in another tweet. “They will suggest I’m out of order. That’s their strategy. However, I hope to have the chance to present our evidence transparently.” THE extra charge were dropped by a judge.

Jones first tried to run for office in 2019 but did not collect enough signatures to appear on the ballot, according to the Nashville Post.

When he won his election in 2022, beating State Rep. Mike Stewart as the representative for Tennessee’s 52nd District, he tweeted that he made history. “My name is Justin Jones. I’m a 26-year-old community organizer, I’ve been arrested over 14 times for good trouble, and I can’t wait to be the next state representative from District 52 ( most diverse district in TN),” he wrote.

Jones often calls her activism “good trouble,” referencing civil rights icon and U.S. Representative John Lewis of Georgia, who called her decades-long activism work and peaceful protests “good trouble.”

When Jones and Pearson were expelled after protests last week, many came to their defense, including former President Barack Obama and President Joe Biden.

“This nation was built on peaceful protest. No elected official should lose their job just for speaking out, especially when doing so on behalf of our children,” Obama tweeted.

“Today’s expulsion of lawmakers who engaged in peaceful protests is shocking, undemocratic and unprecedented,” President Biden said in a statement. “Rather than debate the merits of the issue, these Republican lawmakers have chosen to punish, silence and expel the duly elected representatives of the people of Tennessee.”

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