Newly unearthed video shows recently reinstated Tennessee state representative Justin Jones stopping cars and assaulting a driver during a street demonstration in Nashville in June of 2020. Another video shows him standing on a marked police car with a fellow agitator during a Black Lives Matter riot earlier that year.
Jones is one of three Democrat Tennessee legislators who was expelled from the State House for participating in a riot inside the capitol building on March 30, 2023. He was temporarily reinstated to his seat after the vote of a local council.
Jones, who denied that he was ever violent, has faced more than a dozen charges stemming from BLM riots outside of the state Capitol that were prompted by the death of career criminal George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Jones at the time was “one of Nashville’s most prominent black activists,” leading demonstrations at the state Capitol and around the city focused on racial issues, according to the Nashville Scene.
The June 18, 2020 video shows several agitators assembled on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, which runs in front of the state Capitol. While blocking traffic in the crosswalk, the hat-wearing Jones can be seen picking up a traffic cone and placing it in front of a white pickup truck. When the truck starts to move forward, activists stand in front of it, and the person identified as Jones approaches the driver’s open window and puts his hand inside. In the other lane, a different car slowly moves forward, and an activist who who had planted himself in front of the vehicle dramatically collapses to the ground, arms and legs sprawled out. After playing dead for a few seconds, he gets up again as the car drives away. When the driver of the white pickup truck begins to pull forward, an agitator pushes against the front of the car while Jones picks up the traffic cone tries to shove it through the truck’s open window. As the truck drives away, he throws the cone through the driver’s window and the driver throws it back out.
A video of Justin Jones down in Nashville stopping cars and assaulting drivers in the summer of 2020
This is one of the state reps who was expelled and just reinstated. Please DO NOT RT pic.twitter.com/Ut8k1WOCdi
— Jack Poso 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) April 13, 2023
In June of 2021, after indicting Jones on two misdemeanor charges stemming from the “traffic cone incident,” Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk’s office released the video, saying: “This office does not intend to prosecute peaceful protestors. Spokesperson Steve Hayslip said the video “serves as the basis for today’s charges against Justin Jones.”
In response, Jones’ attorney, Nick Leonardo, put out a statement vowing to fight all the charges and place “the entire system on trial.”
“Justin was indicted with two misdemeanors for alleged ‘criminal acts’ that occurred during the Ida B. Wells protest exactly a year ago,” Leonardo wrote. “We plan on mounting a vigorous defense to these new misdemeanor charges as well as the other 12 misdemeanor charges that remain unresolved as a result of the court closure during the pandemic. I look forward to placing the entire ‘system’ on trial and having 12 citizens of Davidson county deciding if Mr. Jones has committed a crime. There’s a difference [between] being not guilty and innocent and Justin Jones is innocent.”
In a defiant Twitter thread on June 23, 2021, Jones said he had turned himself into the jail to be booked “knowing that truth is on our side; knowing that the real criminals are those who abuse their power. I have nothing to hide.”
He characterized the charges as “retaliation,” and said it served “as a dramatic and sure confirmation that our struggle is effective.”
“This is about our right to be engaged citizens in our system of government,” he added in defense of his unprovoked attack on a motorist. “This is about our to right to challenge an entrenched white power structure in its variety of forms from the State Capitol to the District Attorney’s Office.”
“They will try to push a false narrative portraying me as ‘violent’ as a way to deflect from their own actions. 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,” Jones wrote.
In May of 2021, Jones and fellow agitator Jeneisha Harris were filmed standing on the roof of a marked police car during a George Floyd riot. Warrants went out for their arrest, but were later rescinded following a discussion between Funk and the Deputy Chief.
Jones and Harris both claimed the Metro Nashville Police Department had sent SWAT teams to their homes after the arrest warrants were issued, according to Nashville Scene. However, Metro spokesman Don Aaron said those claims were “untrue.”
“The rumors that SWAT officers went to arrest them are absolutely untrue. To the best of my knowledge, no one in the MNPD, much less a SWAT officer, attempted to serve the warrants prior to them being made inactive, recalled,” Aaron said at the time.
The charges stemming from the 2020 George Floyd riots weren’t Jones’ first run-ins with the law. In 2019, the Tennessean reported that Jones “was charged with two counts of misdemeanor assault and one count of disorderly conduct after” he allegedly threw a cup of coffee into an elevator and struck then-House Speaker Glen Casada, a Republican, and GOP state Rep. Debra Moody.
Jones was banned from the building and ordered to have no contact with Casada after being charged with assault.