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Ousted Tennessee lawmaker Pearson sworn back in to the state Legislature

Republican lawmakers voted to expel Pearson and a colleague, Rep. Justin Jones, last week for their protests inside the chamber against gun violence.

Justin J. Pearson was sworn back in to the Tennessee Legislature on Thursday, one day after the Shelby County Board of Commissioners voted for his reinstatement.

He returns to the Legislature after Republican lawmakers voted to expel him and another Black colleague, Rep. Justin Jones, last week for their protests inside the chamber against gun violence. A white state lawmaker who also participated in the protest, Rep. Gloria Johnson, survived her expulsion vote.

The protests followed a mass shooting at a Nashville private school, which left three adults and three 9-year-olds dead.

Pearson again spoke out against gun violence after being sworn in and listed the names of those killed in the Nashville school shooting.

“God needed to reignite this movement to end gun violence,” Pearson told a crowd of supporters. “God needed to catalyze the conversation about anti-democratic behavior of the Republican party in the state of Tennessee.”

After the reinstatement vote Wednesday, Pearson said: “Nashville thought they could silence democracy. But they didn’t know the Shelby County Commission ... and its fearless leaders.”

He added that he had a “message for all those people in Nashville who voted to expel us”: “You can’t expel hope. You can’t expel justice.”

In an op-ed published Wednesday by MSNBC, Pearson said the attempt by Republican legislators to "obstruct" him and his colleagues "only fanned the flames of hope" for their movement.

"In a move that reminds us that Jim Crow is alive and well, the outraged purveyors of a deeply anti-democratic and racist ideology expelled us from the People’s House," Pearson wrote. "But you can’t expel a movement. You can’t silence the voice of the people."

Jones was sworn in days earlier, on Monday, after all members from the Nashville Metropolitan Council who were present voted unanimously for his reinstatement.