The Metropolitan Council of Nashville and Davidson County voted unanimously to send Justin Jones of Nashville back to the Statehouse on an interim basis. Justin Pearson, the other expelled lawmaker, from Memphis, could also be reappointed later this week.
"On Thursday, April the 6th, we witnessed a miscarriage of justice and an egregious assault on our democracy which resulted in over 70,000 Davidson County voters being silenced," Council Member Delishia Porterfield said after formally nominating Jones to his seat. "Their will should have never been undermined."
The council's vote sends a strong message to the state legislature and the rest of the country "that we will not tolerate threats to our democracy," Porterfield added.
Minutes after the vote, Jones led hundreds of demonstrators in a march to the state capitol.
He was then sworn in on the capitol steps before returning to the chamber.
Jones and Pearson, both young Black men who were in their first terms, have said they plan to run in the coming special elections for their seats. If reelected, they could not be expelled for the same offense.
The two lawmakers were voted out by the House's Republican supermajority on Thursday for protesting against gun violence in the state capitol after six people, including three children, were killed in a shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville on March 27. Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson, another member who participated in the protest, survived by a single vote.
Their removal was widely criticized by leaders across the country, including President Joe Biden, who tweeted, "The expulsion of lawmakers who engaged in peaceful protest is shocking, undemocratic, and unprecedented." Expulsions have previously been used to remove members accused of serious offenses, like soliciting a bribe or allegedly committing sexual misconduct.
Though House Speaker Cameron Sexton, who leads the GOP's supermajority, tried to compare the lawmakers' actions to those of the Jan. 6 rioters at the US Capitol, no protesters broke into the building, damaged any property, or were arrested. Also unlike the 2021 insurrection in Washington, DC, the demonstrators were allowed in the building after going through security screening, the Tennessean reported.
Prior to Jones's reappointment, Doug Kufner, a spokesperson for Sexton, said in a statement provided to BuzzFeed News that whoever is appointed to the vacancies by the Nashville and Shelby County governments "will be seated as representatives as the constitution requires."