New Yorkers raged on Easter Sunday against the expulsion last week of two Black Tennessee state lawmakers who protested the need for gun reform laws at the state capitol in Nashville.
The group unfurled a large banner in front of the entrance to Central Park near Columbus Circle on April 9 that read “White Supremacy,” two words protesters feel best describe Tennessee republicans after the Black politicians were voted out of the house while their white colleagues was permitted to stay.
Former state Representatives Justin Jones of Nashville and Justin Pearson of Memphis were voted out by their conservative colleagues for engaging in an appeal to strengthen gun laws following the deadly Nashville school shooting; the Republican supermajority in the state house used minor procedural rule violations as their reasoning for dismissing Jones and Pearson, but they fell short in attempting to expel a third colleague, state Representative Gloria Johnson, who happens to be white.
Jenny Heinz, who helped brandish the banner, called the removal a blatant act of racism.
“They are ousting people because of assault weapons and then the white woman got left in — how much more blatant can you be?” Heinz asked, gripping the banner with frustration.
Heinz explained that she felt compelled to advocate for Jones and Pearson, and although she explained that it may not do much, she feels it is worth it if it makes people stop and think for a few moments.
“Even if it’s for one minute, it disrupts business as usual. It will stop someone from thinking about something other than where am I going to buy this or where I am going to eat. If it does that for one minute it is worth it, and if it doesn’t, it’s okay. I gotta be here because I gotta be here,” Heinz said.
Rise and Resist organized the protest, which also saw participation from Gays Against Guns. Demonstrators wielded signs reading “No Justins, no Peace” and “Fascism Has Risen.”
Wendy Brandes also joined the protest and noted that the dual expulsion disenfranchised some 130,000 voters in heavily Black and Brown districts, currently leaving them without representation in the state house.
“It’s a travesty against the First Amendment, against the Constitution, against all notion of rights, and the profound racism of it,” Brandes said. “They’re not ashamed. The racist, fascist, they’re not ashamed if they ever were ashamed Donald Trump took that away and just let people be open about it.”
Both Jones and Pearson have voiced their desire to return to their seats. The Nashville City Council is expected to vote Monday on reinstating Jones to his state house seat, and the Shelby County Commissioners board representing Memphis is also looking to have Pearson reappointed.