(Washington) A call from the president, a surprise visit from the vice-president: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris threw themselves into a fierce political battle Friday shaking Tennessee, between debate on weapons and accusations of racism.

Joe Biden spoke by phone on Friday with three Tennessee Democratic lawmakers, including two African Americans who were barred from the local legislature for protesting gun violence, the White House said.

The president “thanked” them for their calls to ban assault rifles and for “standing up for (democratic) values,” before inviting them to come “soon” to the White House.

Vice President Kamala Harris went to meet them in Nashville, capital of this southern state.

She will also call, once again, on the US Congress to ban assault rifles – a request doomed to failure, due to fierce Republican opposition to such a move.

Kamala Harris first went to a rally organized at a Nashville university in support of the three elected Democrats targeted Thursday by a vote of their conservative colleagues for not having respected the decorum of the assembly.

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

Accusations of racism multiplied after this decision.

“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, alluding to 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.