Hundreds of Houstonians gathered at Discovery Green park on Friday to mourn the victims of the Uvalde elementary school shooting and to thumb their nose at the National Rifle Association convention next door.
Gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke, who days early confronted Gov. Greg Abbott at a press conference about the shooting, spoke at the rally and demanded action on gun reform.
“The time for us to have stopped Uvalde was right after Sandy Hook,” O’Rourke said. “The time for us to have stopped Uvalde was right after Parkland. The time for us to have stopped Uvalde was right after Santa Fe High School. The time for us to stop the next mass shooting in this country is right now, right here, it is today.”
O’Rourke said he recently visited with parents who lost their daughter, Olithia, in the massacre. The family told O’Rourke not to forget the name of the victims and to prevent another massacre from happening again.
The former El Paso congressman also delivered a message of unity to members of the National Rifle Association that were meeting next door.
“To those who are attending the NRA convention across the street: you are not enemies,” he said. “We are not yours. We extend our hand open, and unarmed in a gesture of peace and fellowship to welcome you to join us to make sure that this no longer happens in this country.”
The rally featured mulutple speeches from local Houston elected leaders and anti-gun violence advocates, including David Hogg, a survior of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, and Congressman Al Green who phoned in and said, to cheers, that assault weapons should be banned.
“We have to hold them accountable and get through the filibuster,” Hogg said, urging protesters to pressure their Senators for red-flag laws and background checks.
Chas Moore, founder of Austin Justice Coalition, connected the mass shooting in Uvalde to the massacre in Buffalo, New York, where a white supramcist killed 10 shoppers at a supermarket.
“This city Uvalde is 72 percent Hispanic, so that means this automatically becomes a race issue,” Moore said.
One of the most powerful speeches during the rally came from a mother whose son died of gun violence. A 22-year-old got angry at her son while driving and shot him in the head.
“I remember going home and just crying and crying and yelling at the sky, ‘I want my son back!’ ” said Angelica Halphen.
“I’m the one serving the life sentence, not the monster that killed my son,” Halphen said.
“When your child is killed like that, it’s horrific. It changes you. It breaks you into pieces that will never come together,” Halphen said.
The protest comes four days after the Uvalde mass shooting which saw 19 students and two teachers killed. Details about the shooting, including the delayed police response, are still being revealed.