Houston’s 90-degree weather could not stop crowds of people from protesting outside the National Rifle Association’s 151st annual convention on Friday, just days after a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, killed at least 19 children and two teachers.
The hourslong protest — which was organized by Black Lives Matter Houston, Fiel Houston, Indivisible Houston and the Harris County Democratic Party — was held across the street from the George R. Brown Convention Center, with calls for stricter gun control laws as the nation grapples with the shooting at Robb Elementary School on Tuesday.
Mass shootings at a Buffalo supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood, killing 10, and at a Korean hair salon in Dallas, injuring three, also occurred in recent weeks.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, took the stage during the rally citing her repeated attempts to pass gun control legislation over more than 20 years. Jackson Lee served on a congressional task force formed after the deadly 1999 high school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.
Ahead of the convention, she called for former president Donald Trump to cancel his visit to the event, as some invited politicians did, and for the NRA to cancel the three-day gathering.
“If there’s someone who is scared, and mumbling, and afraid to stand for these children and their teachers and schools about gun safety, you should know and vote them out,” she said to the crowd.
Chas Moore, leader of the Austin Justice Coalition, a nonprofit focused on combating racial and social injustice, was also in the crowd of protesters and said that gun violence is prevalent in communities of color.
“This happens everyday far more often in Black and brown communities,” Moore told NBC News after he spoke to the crowd.
Moore also challenged the crowd, saying that some are “armchair activists” only attend protests to post about it on social media.
“You want to be in the community, that’s great,” Moore said. “But like, don’t chalk it up to you actually doing something. Because like, that’s also another reason why we keep having these cycles.”
BLM Houston’s Instagram page shared a post condemning the NRA’s leadership forum, saying that every person speaking at the convention “has blood on their hands.” Those scheduled to speak at the event include NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who previously said that stricter gun control is not the solution in preventing mass shootings.
Leading up to the event, BLM Houston also requested Mayor Sylvester Turner to withdraw the city’s contract and cancel the convention. During Houston’s weekly council meeting on Tuesday, Turner extended his condolences to the families in Uvalde and said that the city would not stop the convention, citing the legal issues canceling the event would spur.
“The greater question is why are elected officials speaking there, and what message does that send,” Turner said. “You can’t pray and send condolences on one day and go and champion guns on the next.”
A statement on the convention’s website acknowledged the victims and families affected by the mass shooting in Uvalde, yet did not mention any plans of cancellation.
“Although an investigation is underway and facts are still emerging, we recognize this was the act of a lone, deranged criminal,” the website’s statement said. “As we gather in Houston, we will reflect on these events, pray for the victims, recognize our patriotic members, and pledge to redouble our commitment to making our schools secure.”