(Washington) United States Vice President Kamala Harris travels to Tennessee on Friday, where the exclusion of two young black lawmakers from the local legislature for protesting gun violence shocked and reignited some the not-so-old wounds of segregation.

In Nashville, Ms. Harris will meet with “local elected officials, youth and activists … who have demanded that their elected officials take meaningful action against gun violence,” according to a White House official. .

She will also reiterate a call for Congress to ban assault rifles.

According to the daily USA Today, the vice-president will meet with the three elected Democrats targeted Thursday by a vote of their Republican colleagues for not having respected the decorum of the assembly by demonstrating.

Two of them, African-Americans Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, were excluded, an extremely rare measure that the House of Representatives of this southern state did not ultimately apply to a third white elected official, Gloria Johnson.

The news was criticized as far away as Washington, where President Joe Biden called it “shocking” and “undemocratic” and Kamala Harris “dangerous.”

Accusations of racism have also multiplied.

“Silencing two black elected officials for peacefully protesting gun violence is not only racist, it is also a radical departure from the democratic rules and traditions on which our nation was founded,” said tweeted elected Democrat Yvette Clarke.

On March 30, a few days after a massacre in a Christian school in Nashville (six dead including three children), Justin Jones, Justin Pearson and Gloria Johnson had joined hundreds of demonstrators in the precincts of parliament to demand stricter regulation of fire arms.

The protesters had entered the Capitol of Tennessee to challenge the elected officials gathered in session.

MM. Jones and Pearson had notably used a megaphone to invite protesters to shout slogans such as “Power to the people” and “No peace without action”, according to several media.

Thursday, the day of the vote, “we had the impression of being in the middle of a trial of the Jim Crow era”, launched at a press conference Friday Jesse Chism, the vice-president of the black parliamentary group. in the Tennessee Assembly, in reference to the segregationist laws in force for some until the middle of the 20th century.

Gloria Johnson, who narrowly escaped expulsion, said her motives were clear.

“I’m a 60-year-old white woman and they are two young black men,” she said.

Justin Jones and Justin Pearson delivered impassioned pleas against their exclusion, which earned them praise on social media where a photo of them raising their fists went viral.

It’s “a dangerous precedent for the nation,” Justin Jones told MSNBC.

“If you hadn’t told me this was happening to me, I would have thought it was 1963, not 2023. Because what we’re seeing is a super- predominantly white majority that is unraveling democracy,” he added, saying the Justice Department needed to look at the terms of the exclusion.