▶ Watch Video: Ousted Tennessee legislator Justin Jones reinstated after Nashville council vote

Justin Jones was one of two Tennessee lawmakers who were expelled from the state’s House of Representatives by a Republican majority following a protest over gun violence that made its way onto the House floor earlier this month. Jones was reinstated this week after garnering national attention after his passionate speech on the House floor when he was expelled.

Jones is just 27 years old — one of the youngest members of the state’s legislature, and assumed office in 2022. 

He and two other Democratic lawmakers — Reps. Justin Pearson and Gloria Johnson — led protesters in a chant of “power to the people” in the chamber during a demonstration after a mass shooting killed six people at a Nashville school last month. 

Republican lawmakers accused them of breaking House rules on conduct and decorum and voted to expel both Jones and 28-year-old Pearson, who are both Black. Johnson, who is a White woman, was not expelled. Johnson told CNN the expulsion of Jones and Pearson “might have to do with the color” of their skin. 

“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 on the House floor before the vote to expel him.

Democratic state Rep. Justin Jones of Nashville gestures during a vote on his expulsion from the state legislature at the State Capitol Building on April 6, 2023, in Nashville, Tennessee. 

Seth Herald / Getty Images

Jones has been involved in many high profile demonstrations in the state’s capital and has “fought for justice since childhood,” according to his campaign site. He graduated from Fisk University, an HBCU in Nashville, where he campaigned to repeal Tennessee restrictive voter ID laws and to expand Medicaid in the state. He also attended Vanderbilt Divinity School for graduate school. 

In 2019, Jones attended a protest to remove a statue of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, an early leader of the Klan, displayed in the state’s Capitol. During the demonstration, Jones allegedly threw a cup of liquid at Republican State Rep. Glen Casada. Jones was charged with two counts of misdemeanor assault and one count of disorderly conduct, according to The Tennessean. 

Lawmakers also attempted to ban him from the Capitol building, saying he was a “danger to public safety.” A judge blocked the ban. 

Casada, who tweeted video from the incident, agreed to have Jones’ criminal charges dropped if Jones followed certain conditions, including no contact with Casada and other lawmakers involved in the incident. 

Jones has been removed from or arrested during other protests, including a 2020 protest for police reform in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Several protesters were charged during that days-long demonstration, during which they flocked to the state’s Capitol building. Many of the charges, including Jones’ initial charges, were dropped, according to the Tennessean.

But a year later, Jones faced additional charges for allegedly throwing a traffic cone at a car during the protest. Video of the moment was released but Jones wrote in a tweet it didn’t show the whole incident, saying the man in the car “was yelling racial slurs and pushing his car into protesters.”

“They will try to push a false narrative portraying me as ‘violent’ as a way to deflect from their own actions,” Jones wrote in another tweet. “They will suggest that I am out of order. That is their strategy. However, I’m hopeful for the chance to present our evidence in a transparent manner.” The additional charges were dropped by a judge. 

Jones first attempted to run for office in 2019 but did not gather enough signatures required to make it on the ballot, according to the Nashville Post. 

When he won his election in 2022, defeating State Representative Mike Stewart as the representative for Tennessee’s 52nd district, he tweeted that he made history. “My name is Justin Jones. I’m a 26 year-old community organizer, been arrested over 14 times for good trouble, and I look forward to serving as the next state representative of District 52 (the most diverse district in TN),” he wrote.

Jones often calls his activism “good trouble,” referencing late civil rights icon and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, of Georgia, who referred to his decades-long activism work and peaceful protesting as “good trouble.”

When Jones and Pearson were expelled after last week’s protests, many came to their defense, including former President Barack Obama and President Joe Biden. 

“This nation was built on peaceful protest. No elected official should lose their job simply for raising their voice — especially when they’re doing it on behalf of our children,” Obama tweeted.

“Today’s expulsion of lawmakers who engaged in peaceful protest is shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent,” President Biden said in a statement. “Rather than debating the merits of the issue, these Republican lawmakers have chosen to punish, silence, and expel duly elected representatives of the people of Tennessee.”

Nashville’s Metro Council voted to unanimously reinstate Jones less than a week after his expulsion. “I want to welcome the people back to the people’s house,” he said as he addressed the House. “I’m hopeful for the days ahead for Tennessee, not because of the actions of this body, but because of the actions of the people out there, the thousands gathered outside this chamber right now, who are calling for something better.