MEMPHIS, Tenn. — For those living in District 86, many voters say they feel disenfranchised after the Tennesee House of Representatives voted to oust Justin Pearson Thursday.
Pearson, who is essentially their voice, represented more than 63,000 people living in a part of Memphis that stretches along the Mississippi River. This includes Southwest Memphis and sections of Downtown. These citizens now have no representation in the State House.
Boxtown residents say they elected him to a job, and, because of his command of issues like climate change, they want him to finish it.
"We the people hired Justin J. Pearson and we didn’t fire him," Sarah Gladney a District 86 voter said.
Voters in the district are unrelenting despite Pearson's expulsion by a vote of 69 to 26 was kicked out of the Tennessee House of Representatives.
"He wasn’t just coming in here for political reasons," Marilyn Gooch, another District 86 resident, said. "He was coming here as an individual, standing for what’s right and what he believed, and, as a result, it’s what we also believed in. That’s why we are backing him — that’s why we backed him and will continue to back him.”
In January, Pearson won this seat by an overwhelming margin in a special election after the death of his predecessor representative Barbara Ward Cooper.
Boxtown residents say his stance on climate change and his constant push for a cleaner environment is why they propelled him into office.
"Faulty air, smells that we smell from down at that treatment plant in the bottom," Willie Stafford recalled. "All of that stuff has got something to do with the health of the people in this community — we never had anybody to speak up for it. He did."
Pearson was at the forefront of demonstrations against the Byhalia Pipeline, a crude oil pipeline that energy companies wanted to build through downtown Memphis to Byhalia, Mississippi.
"Every person in this city deserves clean drinking water, that every person in this city deserves clean air to breathe," Pearson said at the time.
Through Memphis Community Against Pollution (MCAP) Pearson brought Memphis together to prevent the measures they felt would harm their environment.
It’s a community they say has long been ignored.
“We have always been the community that was last, that was looked at as the least resistant community," Gladney said.
But now they're not backing down.
"Put Justin back," Alexis Humphreys, a former classmate of Pearson's, said.
The Shelby county commission could consider reappointing Pearson to the District 86 seat in the Tennessee Statehouse.
The commission has a nine-member Democratic supermajority and the commission's chairman Mickell Lowery has signaled that he would call a special session to do such.