Demonstrators on both sides of the gun debate filled the streets Saturday outside the National Rifle Association’s annual convention.
As reported by Reuters, approximately 200 protesters — many dressed in orange, a pervasive color of the gun control movement — comprised Rally4Reform, a group demanding greater restriction on the sale of firearms. They chanted, “Our blood, your hands!”
As attendees looked on, Manuel Oliver, whose son, Joaquin, was struck down at age 17 during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting in Florida, painted a mural featuring a student in rifle crosshairs and frightened schoolchildren running.
Oliver banged a hammer against a wall, simulating the sound of gunfire.
“You were in the wrong room yesterday,” Oliver said, directing his admonishment toward President Donald Trump, who spoke inside the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center the day before. “You should be talking to the poeple we are now.”
Waed Alhayek, who founded Rally4Reform, explained to NPR, “People think we’re trying to take away guns, but that’s not the issue we’re focused on. We’re trying to regulate the amount of gun violence.”
At nearby Belo Garden Park, members of #NoRA, an alliance formed by actress Alyssa Milano, gathered. Speakers included Milano herself, as well as Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old son Jaime was killed in Parkland.
In anticipation of the assembly, Milano told the Dallas Observer, “Everybody in the U.S. feels like everything is so partisan at this point, and our political views have become so calcified and fossilized in a way that is disruptive to any common ground. And I don’t think there’s a person in this country who doesn’t think we don’t have a gun problem. We’ve become so partisan that we don’t know how to even meet halfway to fix that problem.”
Two hours after the Rally4Reform event, a counter protest took place on the same ground. About 150 gun rights proponents congregated, many carrying rifles and sidearms to show their support of the NRA.
C.J. Grisham, president of Open Carry Texas and one of the organizers, conceded to Reuters he is critical of the NRA, yet he believes they are a vital component in the safeguarding of Americans’ constitutional rights. “When you’ve got groups who have no idea what they’re talking about, going after the largest organization dedicated to preserving liberty, then I feel like we have a duty to stand up.”
Approximately 80,000 are expected to attend the three-day symposium, which began Friday.