Rally held in Chicago in support of the 'Tennessee Three'

Local activists on Monday rallied in support of the Tennessee Three – a group of lawmakers who recently led gun control demonstrations on the House floor in response to last month’s elementary school shooting in Nashville.

Meanwhile, Justin Jones – one of two state representatives who were expelled – was unanimously returned to his post by Nashville’s Metro Council during a special meeting held Monday afternoon. Jones will still need to run in a special election later this year to make it official.

Democrats Jones and Justin Pearson were thrown out of the Tennessee House of Representatives last week. Republicans say the men – who are both Black – were expelled for their actions, which GOP leaders said disrupted official proceedings.

A third representative, Gloria Johnson, who also participated in the protest, was spared the same fate by a single vote. 

Johnson, who is a white woman, said she believes her race played a factor; a claim Republicans deny.

"She did not bang on the table. She did not use a bullhorn," said State Rep. Sabi Kumar, (R) Tennessee. "To imply that it has anything to do with race is really, really untrue."


In the meantime, about 75 people took part in a rally at Federal Plaza in Chicago to show their support for the Tennessee Three.

"We are now making our voices heard all over America, we want something done now and we can’t wait any longer," said Bishop Tavis Grant, acting national director, Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton was one of several leaders to speak out against the expulsion of Jones and Pearson.

"Like all of you, I watched in horror last week, as Tennessee Republicans expelled two Black lawmakers from their statehouse," said Stratton.

Leaders with Indivisible Chicago Alliance, who organized the rally, said in addition to overt racism, this is also a threat to the democratic process.

"Tennessee voters are outraged, we’re outraged around the country, as we should be, as the GOP continues to limit voters’ access to public policy," said Marj Halperin, vice chair, Indivisible Chicago Alliance. "We'd love to see this kind of action in cities and towns across the country because the American people ought to stand up for democracy when it's being attacked anywhere in the country. Increasingly, we are a national, political entity, and what happens in one state impacts what happens in the other. Laws are set in one state, and tested in the courts, and we all have to live by them."

The organization is also calling for gun reform.

"This issue about gun violence is not about Republicans or Democrats, it’s about life," said State Rep. Lashawn Ford, (D) Illinois.

Later this week, the Shelby County Commission will vote to reappoint Pearson to his post.

Jones – and Pearson if he is returned to the statehouse – will still need to run in special elections, and win, to serve the rest of their terms.

Those elections will be held in the coming months.