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Abby Zimet: Eating Jim Crow | Justin Jones Is Back In the People’s House

Grateful supporters welcome Justin Jones back to the People’s House. Photo by Seth Herald/Getty Images


In a high-speed “karma boomerang” delectable to see, Rep. Justin Jones, expelled for daring to protest the slaughter of America’s children, made a triumphant return to the GOP-majority House after Nashville officials unanimously reappointed him. Sweet justice: As Jones strode in to reclaim his seat, he was met by cheering supporters and scowling, butthurt good ole boys, “big mad in they seats,” who had messed around only to find out they’d “awakened the people” and ensured Jones “will never go away.”

In a grim irony, the return of Jones, expelled last week along with Rep. Justin Pearson for what Republican lawmakers deemed “disorderly behavior” – aka standing with distraught protesters seeking common-sense gun reform – came on the same day as yet another mass shooting, live-streamed in Louisville, that killed at least five people. It was the 146th mass shooting in a year that’s 100 days old. Thursday’s expulsion of Jones and Pearson – both black, 27, and fiery orators – had been blasted by attorneys as “extraordinary, illegal, and without any historical or legal precedent”; Gloria Johnson, the only white member of the Tennessee Three, held onto her seat by one vote. In a sharp rebuke to the GOP’s 72-25 expulsion vote – and amidst rumors the Three would come back together “one Justin at a time” – all 36 members of Nashville’s Metropolitan Council voted to reinstate Jones to his seat representing District 52. “(The GOP) removed the voice of 140,000 people who voted for them,” said Council Member Burkley Allen. “It’s a terrible precedent to set that we disagree with you (and) therefore we’re expelling you. That’s not the way democracy works.” 

Before the Council vote, Jones supporters gathered outside to call for gun reform and chant “No Justin, No Peace”; after the vote, loud cheers rang out. Jones then led a march back to the State House to be re-instated amidst chants of, “This is what democracy looks like” and “Whose house? Our house.” Jones spoke to the crowd: “This is not about one person…It’s about a movement of people empowered to restore the soul of what this building should represent, and that is democracy.” After being sworn in, Jones walked through the Capitol halls as people followed singing Odetta’s civil-rights anthem, “This Little Light of Mine.” He entered the House chamber arm-in-arm with Johnson to cheers from supporters in the gallery; when Speaker Cameron Sexton pounded his gavel to shut them down, one guy loudly yelled, “Fuck your gavel.” Meanwhile, the old white crackers of the GOP sat, sullen and stolid, ignoring Jones, their racist loathing palpable. Viewers noted the malignant vibe: “Lookit all those haters hating…They’re all thinking, ‘Well, fuck, THAT backfired…I believe (a) few just urinated in their own chairs. Fret not, no consequences .”

Jones was called upon to speak by Sexton, who, gavel notwithstanding, was strikingly subdued – perhaps because he reportedly may face charges of election residency fraud, or because he’d been warned in a scathing letter from attorneys that, after their expulsion, the House “must not now compound its errors by further retributive actions,” including a rumored plan to withhold funding if Pearson is also reinstated. “The world is watching,” they wrote. “Any partisan retributive action, such as the discriminatory treatment of elected officials, (will) constitute further unconstitutional action that would require redress.” In his speech, Jones welcomed “democracy back to the people’s house…Today we stand as witness (to) a resurrection of a movement of a multi-racial democracy.” He also thanked the old racist men “for awakening the people of this state, particularly the young people. Thank you for reminding us that the struggle for justice is fought and won in every generation.” As if in poignant proof, on Sunday Jones had run into Joan Baez at the airport. He asked to sing with her, and they began, “We Shall Overcome.” But before the end, Baez started crying.

“I want to see young people in America feel the spirit of the 1960s (and) find a way to get in trouble. Good trouble, necessary trouble.” — John Lewis

First published in Common Dreams. Included in Vox Populi under a Creative Commons license.

Abby Zimet has written Common Dreams’ Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, hauling water and writing before moving to Portland. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women’s, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues.

10 comments on “Abby Zimet: Eating Jim Crow | Justin Jones Is Back In the People’s House

  1. Lisa Zimmerman
    April 14, 2023

    I love “high-speed “karma boomerang”” and I feel like our country definitely needs more of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tracy Abell
    April 13, 2023


    Liked by 1 person

  3. johnlawsonpoet
    April 13, 2023

    If only there were a snowball’s chance of reversing the GOP’s gerrymandering of legislative districts in Tennessee–and elsewhere.


  4. kim4true
    April 13, 2023

    I’m glad to know about 27 year old fiery orators doing the hard work and trying to make a difference.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      April 13, 2023

      Yes, Justin Jones is a firebrand. It’s going to be interesting to see what he does in the future.



  5. Rose Mary Boehm
    April 13, 2023

    Shared on my FB page.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Noelle Canin
    April 13, 2023

    I remember Joan Baez coming to Israel. When she visited Ramallah, settlers threw eggs at her, she came to the small theater with bodyguards, where we’d been threatened by Kahana’s people while waiting for her to arrive. The police stood by and let them advance on us, opening the doors to the theater just before we were physically attacked.
    She walked in to a standing ovation. We so felt her strength and support. When she sang Steven Biko, all the South Africans in the audience stood up, everyone else stood up with her next song. It was a day I will never forget. We were on our feet almost the entire time.
    She sang in Hebrew with a young Israeli Arab singer – Amal Murkus who is a wonderful musician, and fervent supporter of peace. Seeing those two beautiful women, Amal must have been about 16 at the time, was the most hopeful feeling of strength in the world – it is still an image of hope for me, even as Israel goes increasingly towards the right and Joan Baez would probably not set foot here. But she is here, in our hearts, and her songs accompany many of us during the daily protests currently filling Israeli streets.
    Many years ago, at Mercedes Sosa’s last concert in Israel before her death, I managed to get a ticket and found myself sitting next to a woman and her husband. I remember noticing how striking they both were.
    A band came on stage and started singing old peace songs and I turned to her – in Israel one can just turn to someone and share something purely personal – and said, this is like being at a picnic with Palestinians – she smiled and said – I was there. We started talking and she sighed and said, we need a Joan Baez. When I told her – we have one, she asked – and who is that? I said – Amal Murkus.
    She put her hand on her heart and told me – I am Amal Murkus. Her husband was very surprised to find two women weeping next to him. Mercedes Sosa then came on stage, supported by her nephew I think, and that was another night I will never forget. A combination of voices from the soul of humanity to keep us going, keep us protesting and believing in human justice and compassion for one another – no matter what we have to face on the way. For me, Joan Baez and Amal Murkus embody this way.


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This entry was posted on April 13, 2023 by in Opinion Leaders, Social Justice and tagged , , , , , .

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