“Our voters have been disenfranchised,” Pearson said. “This is one of the greatest tactics of voter disenfranchisement and voter oppression that I have ever witnessed. It is not only unprecedented, it is historical in nature.”
Pearson, a Democrat from Memphis, was expelled Thursday along with Justin Jones, of Nashville by Republicans, who have a supermajority in the state’s House of Representatives.
Both are African Americans and both had participated in a protest in favor of gun reforms at the Statehouse following the school shooting in Nashville in March that left six people dead, including three children. Republicans also considered ousting a third lawmaker, Gloria Johnson, but failed to do so.
Jones has also indicated he intends to seek reappointment from the Nashville Metro Council. Special elections in both districts would follow the appointment of replacements for the two lawmakers.
“A state in which the Ku Klux Klan was founded is now attempting another power grab by silencing the two youngest Black representatives,” Jones said before the vote to expel him.
Democrats have noted that Pearson, Jones and, to a lesser extent, Johnson have become more influential than they likely would have ever been because of the expulsion proceedings.
“A week ago, no one outside this community knew Justin Jones and Justin Pearson,” state Sen. Raumesh Akbari said. “Now the world is watching. Their platform and their ability to advocate for the issues they believe in has been magnified.”
For his part, Pearson said he wants to get back to the legislature to continue to fight for reforms on guns.
“We can never forget that it was tragedy that brought us to this moment,” he told host Jonathan Karl.