Two young Democratic members of the Tennessee state Congress, who protested inside the building a week ago to demand better gun control after a school shooting, were expelled from the Republican-majority chamber on Thursday for trespassing. of its ethics and protocols.

The state House voted to impeach Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, who on March 30 joined hundreds of protesters inside the statehouse building to demand stricter gun control, some 24 hours after the massacre at a Nashville Christian school. capital of this southern American state.

Six people, including three 9-year-old children, were killed in the attack.

Gloria Johnson, who also belongs to the Democrats and was threatened with expulsion from the body for the same reasons, was able to keep her seat by one vote.

Protesters entered the Tennessee Capitol to demand that members of the state’s Congress act after the attack. “What do we want? Gun control! When do we want him? Now!” they shouted in the corridors.

Messrs. Jones and Pearson used loudspeakers to call on protesters to chant slogans such as “power to the people” or “without action, there will be no peace,” according to media reports.

“An elected official who speaks out can be kicked out, we’ve never seen that before in Tennessee. This has never happened before in our history,” was Justin Jones’ reaction in front of the cameras.

“What we’re seeing is that we don’t have a democracy in Tennessee,” he continued. “I will continue to hold them accountable for their actions,” he said, referring to his fellow MPs; “it’s not just about me, it’s about trying to silence and block an entire movement,” he insisted.

Decisions of this nature are extremely rare in the US. Congress in Tennessee has impeached only two congressmen in its modern history, in 1980 and 2016.

On March 28, Audrey Hale stormed into an elementary school, Covenant School, with two assault rifles and a handgun, sowing death before she herself fell dead from police bullets.

The tragedy, the motives of which remain unknown, caused intense emotional reactions and brought back to the public debate the issue of weapons, which are now the main cause of death among minors.

“The expulsion (…) of parliamentarians who took part in a peaceful demonstration is shocking, undemocratic and unprecedented,” said US President Joe Biden in a press release released by his services last night.

“Instead of debating the issue, elected Republicans have chosen to punish, silence and disqualify lawmakers elected by the people of Tennessee,” he added, then called on Congress for the umpteenth time to ban assault rifles.

It is unlikely that this appeal of the American president will be heard. The right, which has always defended the constitutional right to own guns, opposes any initiative to tighten the law at the federal level.

The Tennessee congressional vote (72-25 to impeach Mr. Jones, 69-26 to impeach Mr. Pearson, 65-30 to impeach Mrs. Johnson, who kept her seat because a two-thirds majority was required) it happened while protesters had gathered outside the state Capitol. They chanted “shame on you” when the two lawmakers were expelled, erupted in cheers when Rep. Johnson, who is white, retained her seat.

The issue of racial discrimination in a body made up of mostly Republican, male, white and older politicians. Mr Jones said he felt the body treated him as nothing more than a “bitten nigger”. The response he received from his Republican colleague was not to see everything through the filter of racial discrimination.

As the vote was being taken, other black MPs went to stand with Mr Jones.

Mr. Pearson, leaving the state Capitol, said it was “no coincidence that the two youngest black lawmakers and one of the few women in the body” were targeted in the process. He saw the initiative as an attempt by white supremacists to stifle democracy.

Earlier yesterday, the state Democratic organization in Tennessee announced that it is raising funds to support whoever is expelled in the upcoming special election to fill their seats.