- Associated Press - Monday, November 18, 2019

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee activist Justin Jones launched his challenge of U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper in the 2020 Democratic primary Monday, leading civil rights chants with supporters on the campus of historically black Fisk University.

Jones, a constant presence at state Capitol protests and sit-ins for years, described a movement that is “intergenerational, multiracial, pro-justice, anti-poverty, anti-racism.”

The 24-year-old black activist backed planks of the party’s left: Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, eliminating student debt, free public higher education tuition, ending privately run prisons and decriminalizing marijuana.

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The Vanderbilt University Divinity School student also said he won’t accept corporate campaign donations. He promised to campaign at bus stations and other places he says politicians “have refused to touch.”

“This election is about those who feel the friction and pain on the margins of our community, those who’ve checked out of politics because it’s always the same faces, the same names, doing the same old nothing for our community,” Jones said.

Cooper, a white lawmaker with a reputation as a moderate Democrat, has held his Nashville-area House seat since 2003. Before that, he spent time serving in the House from 1983 to 1995. When Jones filed paperwork for Cooper’s seat last week, the congressman said he likes Jones and welcomes the competition.

Cooper in September joined the call for the House to begin impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump after revelations about Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president.

Cooper entered October with about $800,000 in his campaign account.

Jones and another protester were arrested in February, accused of throwing a cup of liquid at ex-House Speaker Glen Casada and other lawmakers while protesting the bust of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest inside the Capitol.

The case was resolved under an agreement barring Jones from contacting those lawmakers and visiting the legislative building until April 22, 2020. A ban on entering the state Capitol that was also in his bond conditions was lifted under the resolution.

“We’ve been to jail,” Jones said Monday. “You threaten us. But we’re done protesting. We’re going to primary y’all.”

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