This story I have to share with you today is complex, and is changing by the minute.
And it starts with a courageous young activist from Tennessee named Justin Jones.
Young activists across the country are the lifeblood of change. They fuel every movement for change. Always have. They are the protestors, the demonstrators, the rabble rousers, the marchers – who are confronting problematic people and corporations – often to their face – and telling them about themselves. They fuel the Black Lives Matter Movement. They fuel the environmental movements. They fuel the gun reform movement. Whatever movements we have, young people are always on the frontlines – pushing the envelope – and that’s exactly what’s been happening in Nashville, Tennessee with activists pushing and demanding so many essential reforms. Tennessee, like other states run by conservatives, is doing all they can to make outrageous new laws suppressing the vote – and young activists are fighting back.
And one of those activists is actually a seminary student, in grad school, at Vanderbilt Divinity School, named Justin Jones. Justin, after a protest of the Tennessee Speaker of the House, Glen Casada, ended up actually getting banned from the Tennessee State Capitol. And as a part of that ban, he was not allowed to have any contact whatsoever with the Speaker of the House, Glenn Casada. No phone calls. No emails. Nothing.
And this is where it gets crazy. Justin was honoring the ban. Then, all of a sudden, Justin, the young student, got a phone call from the District Attorney of Nashville, basically saying that he was going to be arrested for violating the agreement. The DA said that he received evidence showing that Justin had been emailing the Speaker of the House after the date of the agreement.
But here’s the thing – those emails were before the ban was issued – but they’d been altered by the Speaker of the House and his staff to look like they took place after the ban. Not only did the Speaker of the House and his staff alter the email from this young activist, they filed false reports based on their altered emails, and have been sending overtly racist text messages to one another. And their fraudulent actions could literally send a young man to jail.
But this young man is resourceful – and with his freedom on the line – he reached out to a local investigative reporter about it – and showed the reporter that the dates on the emails he sent had been altered – and this was back in March – and unbeknownst to any of us – for two months that investigative reporter had been looking into this case – and on this past Thursday – after investigating the case for months – filing Freedom of Information requests for the emails and text messages of the Speaker of the House and his staff, on this past Thursday the reporter dropped a video on what he found on the local news there in Nashville.
And it’s rocked the entire state.
First, he found that the Chief of Staff for the House speaker had sent a series of blatantly racist text messages calling Black people the n-word. And when the reporter confronted the Speaker about it – the Republican Tennessee Speaker of the House, one of the most powerful politicians in the state, said the texts were doctored, but here’s the thing – this reporter put in the work. He found the people they were sent to and went and took videos of those texts on their phones.
Then yesterday, the story blew up, because the reporter found texts of staff members of the Speaker of the House admitting they snort cocaine in the legislative offices. Now get this. At the same time this lead staffer was snorting cocaine in the office, he was proposing legislation demanding that people who receive food stamps and public housing take drug tests.
Now by the time this went public – every investigative reporter and news anchor in Tennessee was on this case – and they all started finding more and more craziness. Most of it is so dirty and so scandalous – that I can’t even repeat it on air.
Mind you – it’s all from conservative white men who promote themselves as Christian family men, but these men, including Glenn Casada, the Speaker of the House himself, were up to their eyeballs in scandal. All while these people were trying to drug test poor people, while they fought against the decriminalization of weed – they were buying, selling, trading and using all types of drugs – and doing them right there in the legislative offices.
So just last night, the Chief of Staff for the Speaker of the House resigned, but we’re demanding that the Speaker of the House resign. He should at least be removed from his leadership role.
And we’re demanding that the District Attorney of Nashville drop all charges against the young activist Justin Jones – and open a criminal probe into the fake emails they tried to frame this young brother with.
I’ll close with this thought – none of the stuff we’re learning about the Speaker of the House in Tennessee would’ve come out had this young activist not been so brave in the first place to confront him – and get kicked out of the Capitol – then been smart enough to get investigative reporters on the case. I’ve gotta run, but I’ll keep us updated on this case.