The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

IN PHOTOS: Memphis Rep. Justin Pearson returns to Tennessee House of Representatives

Pearson’s parents spoke at a rally when he was sworn in, after which he promptly returned to the chamber to propose legislation with Rep. Justin Jones (D-Nashville).
Aaditi Lele
Representative Justin Pearson makes a speech to supporters before he is sworn in, as photographed on April 13, 2023. (Hustler Staff/Aaditi Lele)

After being expelled from the Tennessee House of Representatives on April 7, Rep. Justin Pearson (D-Memphis) was sworn in as an interim representative on April 13. Pearson arrived at the State Capitol Building in Nashville with his family and a group of supporters from his district.

Before beginning the rally and being sworn in on the Capitol steps, Pearson invited some of his constituents to join him on stage. Pearson’s mother shared a poem titled “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou, after which his father shared a sermon titled “If We Must Die.” Pearson was then sworn in and ended the rally with remarks about his expulsion. 

“The solution offered by the Republican Party in the state of Tennessee is to try and expel us and our voices and silence our fight for an end to gun violence,” Pearson said. “They wanted to expel our constituents’ representation by subverting our democracy for their mob-ocracy.”

Pearson went on to explain why he believes the Memphis City Council voted to re-elect him as interim representative. 

“Our democracy is powered by people, and peaceful power always wins.” Pearson said. “They tried to expel this movement for justice, but it cannot be stopped because I see folks of ages nine and 12 and 22 and even 92 who are refusing to be bowed down bent or broken, standing up for what is right.”

As the crowd proceeded to the Capitol’s west entrance, Pearson echoed Jones’s comments earlier in the week, which called on House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R) to resign. 

“[Sexton] needs to resign, and he needs to stop all this anti-democratic behavior that led to the expulsion of myself and Representative Jones,” Pearson said. “The systems of injustice in this state are being led by Cameron Sexton and by the Republican supermajority of this state.”

Jones said he and Pearson plan to introduce gun control legislation upon returning to the House and gestured toward a packet in his hand. 

Once on the legislative floor, Jones alleged that Sexton was not calling on Democratic representatives, to which Sexton claimed that he was choosing speakers based on who first raised hands. During legislative debate, members of the public raised signs in the gallery calling for action on gun reform and for Sexton’s resignation.

Pearson and Jones will serve in their roles until special elections are held to elect a representative to their seat, for which they are eligible to run. They are both serving in interim roles, appointed by their respective city councils. 

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About the Contributors
Aaditi Lele
Aaditi Lele, Former Editorial Director
Aaditi Lele ('24) is majoring in political science and climate science with a minor in South Asian Language and Culture in the College of Arts and Science. She previously served as News Editor. Outside of The Hustler, you can find her crocheting, practicing calligraphy or counting down the days until she can see her dog. She can be reached at [email protected].    
Brina Ratangee
Brina Ratangee, Editorial Director
Brina Ratangee ('24) is a student in the College of Arts and Science majoring in medicine, health & society and neuroscience. She previously served as News Editor. When not writing for The Hustler, she enjoys trivia nights, solving NYT crosswords and biking around Nashville. You can reach her at [email protected].
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