NASHVILLE — Outside a Kroger grocery store in the suburban Antioch neighborhood, where ousted Tennessee Rep. Justin Jones held rallies during his 2022 campaign, black residents expressed outrage over state Republicans who ousted their representative. for protesting gun violence last week.

“He’s black, he has our interests in mind and he gets fired for protesting, that’s racial,” Angelo Tate, 31, who identifies as a Democrat, said Friday. “He makes us feel like our choice and our voice is not valued and it seems like we are going backwards politically.”

Rachel Tate, 30, who also identifies as a Democrat, said: “That’s wrong, all he wanted to do was represent us and he got penalized for it.

«White men don’t care what we think,» Tate said. “They took our representative away from us.

«It’s like our vote doesn’t matter.»

Former Rep. Justin Jones is seeking a seat in the House gallery after being ousted from the Legislature.George Walker IV / AP

Natalie Hancock, 41, who did not disclose her political affiliation, echoed his sentiment. “We are not happy,” she said. “I’m sick of guns, a lot of us are, so why can’t we just say that? This was obviously racial, there’s no hiding it.»

Their voices paralleled those of black Tennessee state lawmakers who denounced their Republican counterparts over the expulsions. “The world saw the optics,” caucus chair Rep. Sam McKenzie, a Knoxville Democrat, told reporters on Friday. «I don’t have to say a word about the fact that our two young African-American brothers were wrongfully prosecuted.»

Republican state lawmakers voted Thursday to expel Jones, along with Justin J. Pearson, both black, for their protests on the floor, arguing they violated House rules. A vote to oust a third Democrat, Rep. Gloria Johnson, who is white, fell short.

At the March 30 rally, the three lawmakers, dubbed the «Tennessee Three,» led supporters in calling for tougher gun safety following a mass shooting in the state that killed three children and three adults. .