“Justin Jones is reentering the chamber at the Tennessee State Legislature to tremendous applause.” So said an MSNBC commentator today, after the Nashville Metro Council voted to return Democratic state representative Justin J. Jones to the Tennessee General Assembly. Last week, Republicans expelled Jones and his colleague Justin Pearson, who represents parts of Memphis, for breaches of decorum after they joined with protesters to call for gun safety legislation in the wake of a school shooting last week that left six people, including three 9-years-olds, dead. The colleague who protested with them, Gloria Johnson, survived a motion to expel her, too, by a single vote.
How delightful to hear Jones and Baez sing those iconic civil rights songs together, passing on the torch from one generation to another. On the same plane? John Lewis must be smiling in heaven.
Democracy can work! The people’s voice matters!
One of the two expelled senators from Tennessee was reinstated today to his seat. Senator Justin Jones (D-Nashville) was sent back to the Tennessee Senate today with a resounding unanimous vote by the Nashville local officials. The vote was 36-0, and immediately afterward, they marched him to the state capital to be sworn in and retake his seat.
This was extremely exhilarating to watch. It made me feel really proud this black man, this man of color, had the opportunity to ‘stick it’ to the Tennessee Republican Party.
Hopefully, in a day or so, the other senator will be returning to the Tennessee Senate Chamber.
Now, I want to turn to the sad news of yesterday.
More souls taken from us in Louisville, Kentucky in two mass shootings that happened almost simultaneously only a few miles apart. Two mass shooters in one city at the same time. Just exactly how many people have to die in mass shooting involving weapons of mass destruction. Two more people get their hands on weapons that have no sense with a gun, of any kind.
There’s absolutely no excuse why we can’t get reasonable gun restriction laws passed across this country.
There’s absolutely no excuse why we can’t raise the age to purchase a weapon to 21 across this country, change the process to buy a gun of any type. We need to make it near impossible for a person to purchase a weapon. Change age limit, waiting periods. Make the waiting period thirty days, if that’s what it takes to do a thorough medical, psychological, and criminal background checks. Make it mandatory that every person that purchases a weapon undergo psychological examinations during the waiting period prior to being authorized to pick up that firearm. Every person that purchases a weapon must get a seal of excellent mental health from a psychologist assigned by the law enforcement agency to do these assessments.
Make it where a person can only purchase a firearm, but must wait an additional amount of time to buy ammunition for that firearm. Then they can only purchase a certain amount at a time over a period of time.
Make a national database accessible by all gun shops so every purchase is immediately entered into it, and it be mandatory for every gun shop to check the database to assure that person isn’t going to several gun shops to purchase weapons or ammunition.
Have the same laws enforced for gun shows as they are for gun shops. No weapons may be purchased and delivered at the show. The same 30 day waiting period, same background checks, same psychological assessment. Everything. And especially the same access to the data base that must be checked.
Maybe, just maybe, we can slow down these mass shootings where our loved ones, friends, neighbors, are being gunned down by a lunatic with a damn gun!
Finally, decent folks are saying, “Enough!” A 36-0 vote shows solidarity that you cannot take away people’s duly elected representatives without pushback.
I drive past Joan’s home in Woodside CA many times a week. Her exquisite artwork has graced the entry to her property - portraits of RBG, Zelenskyy, and most recently, her former husband noted Vietnam war protested David Harris. I feel inspired each time I pass by. Joan is a national treasure with a voice still so pure and beautiful and strong.
Let’s just rewind history and say the repubs never expelled two black legislators because they were black. Let’s say their protests were recognized as the lifting of voices for all the children killed in mass shootings. To plead for gun laws that prevent the needless deaths of children. Protect children not guns. Let’s say all Americans care enough to lay down their arms and choose to protect all our children. All. Let’s say they met Joan Baez because there is karma in protestors meeting without a plan, not a dream, but all our dreams. Then they sang together. “Last night I dreamed the strangest dream.” Let’s say every American is sick at heart being world leaders in numbers of guns per person, numbers of shootings, numbers of children dying. Let’s say we show our children we love them by our actions. And we sang together, Joan Baez, our children, the Democrats and even the repubs. Let’s say dreams might someday come true. “Last Night I had the Strangest Dream.”
Here they are, singing:
When I was in the US Army, a well trained militia, all weapons, including assault rifles, were stored in unit armories with steel reinforced doors and at least two high-grade locks. The only persons who carried weapons were the Military Police. If Marjorie, Mat, Jimbo, Clarence and Ginny and the other Christmas tree Rangers of the boom-boom club walked onto the post where I was stationed with their Happy New Year assault style tree ornaments they would have no trouble finding the bars: they would be on the doors and windows. It's happy hour. How in Hell's name did the 2nd Amendment get a reading that has allowed the gun culture to become what it has. When 2nd Amendment folks go abroad where all arms are forbidden or strictly controlled, do they take comfort animals when they have to leave their arsenal's behind?
The more fascism guides the GOP, the more clear messaging the Democrats can run on if they take advantage of this. Beautiful essay Heather and thanks!
Lawmakers drunk on power and a delusional sense of superiority have invigorated those they see as enemies - and the quest to preserve democracy.
What a glorious blunder!
What beautiful images in my head: one young man re-entering the legislature and one singing we We Shall Overcome with Joan Baez. Just wow. I will go to sleep with happy thoughts.
Yes, WE shall overcome!
This is how change actually occurs in America. Black folks protest (or any other skin shade except white)...or gay, trans...name whatever "minority" group protests some injustice and white folks in power overreact out of fear...cameras record it and distribute it...a large group of folks see it...then react...and the white folks in power who felt threatened are now REALLY threatened by far more people who are focused on them like a laser beam. In the 1960's when these things occurred like at the Edmund Pettus Bridge there was a HUGE backlash at the White folks in power that did not serve what they wanted to preserve at all. Instead of putting the breaks on, they accelerated their already out of control situation...which literally crashed and burned all around them. They just co-created a situation they did not intend...because they acted out of fear...not love....and then the Universe puts the folk singer together with the protestor and they sing "We shall overcome". Peace to all...thank you again HCR for the report & the history. .
The Tennessee legislators that barely held back from calling the two Justins "boys," must be feeling a little gobsmacked that people are not standing for BS. Hey guys, how's that going to feel like on a daily basis? Our youth is my prayer answered....
We Shall Overcome. Deep in my heart/I do believe . ..
The Right wing is going so overboard and is so desperate to get in every piece of legislation, and action that they can before the tables are turned, or so that it becomes impossible to turn the tables. These sorts of victories keeps the hope alive and makes me want to be sure to get out the vote in 2024 and turn things back around. At the same time it is concerning to read elsewhere and again today in The Lever that The No Labels party is possibly going to run the government through a third party which they pretend is centrist, but is not, and is funded by a lot of undeclared dark money.
I am glad that Jones is reinstated, but the people who committed this crime need to be brought to justice.
I still say the Republicans violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
We have our work cut out for us. Thank you for posting this victory Prof. Richardson.