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Uvalde residents march for 'unheard voices'

 Uvalde residents prepare to march from Robb Elementary school to the town square on July 10, 2022
Camille Phillips
Uvalde residents prepare to march from Robb Elementary school to the town square on July 10, 2022

Uvalde residents, including the father of one of the children killed in the mass shooting in May, organized a march and rally to remember the victims Sunday evening. They gathered at Robb Elementary School Sunday evening and marched through 105 degree temperatures to the plaza in downtown Uvalde for a rally for accountability and increased school safety as well as gun reform.

A couple hundred people endured the 105 degree heat Sunday in Uvalde to call for gun control and protest the botched police response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary in May. 21 people were killed in the shooting, including 19 children.

The event was organized by Javier Cazares, the father of one of the victims, nine-year-old Jackie. He gave the families a platform to call for change.

Families, activists, and community members met at Robb Elementary and marched nearly a mile to the plaza downtown.

They chanted, “Not one more child! Not one more child! Not one more child!”

Once they made it downtown, a representative of every one of the 21 victims lined up at the front. Some said a speech. Others simply said the name of the child or sister they lost.

The official narrative of what happened on May 24th has changed many times over the past month and a half. Most recently, a report commissioned by the Texas Department of Public Safety found that a Uvalde police officer had the chance to stop the mass shooting at Robb Elementary before it began, something may Don McLaughlin said is false.

There is also still disagreement between DPS and local officials about whether Uvalde CISD Police Chief Pete Arredondo was the incident commander at the time of the shooting and what DPS' role should have been, with more than 91 state troopers in the area as law enforcement waited more than an hour to confront the gunman.

Like many relatives of the victims, Laura Morales is frustrated by the conflicting information state and local officials have provided over the weeks since the shooting. She’s the aunt of 10-year-old Eliahna Torres, one of the 19 children killed.

“I want to know what happened. I want to know what was said," she said. "I want to know,what was the holdup? Where was the action?”

The chairman of the state legislative committee investigating the shooting recently requested a video of the 77 minutes police waited in the hallway be released to the public — but he said the local district attorney denied his request.

Others at the march pointed out that easy access to guns in the U.S. and in Texas is what made this shooting possible.

"All this pain and grief we feel sadly could have been prevented," said Faith Mata, sister of Tess Marie Mata — a 10-year-old girl who was killed in the shooting. "But a war weapon is more important to our current governor than the life of his people."

Vincent Salazar Sr., grandfather of 11-year-old Layla Salazar — another victim in the shooting — said he cannot stay quiet about the politics around guns.

"We cannot keep this under the rug no more. There are too many people who got hurt here and are still grieving. I know I grieve every single night for these children including my own granddaughter," Salazar said. "With that said, we have to have the courage to move on but let's do it for the right reasons. Let's vote for the right reasons and not the pocketbook. Please, people, we need to go out and vote."

A table set up to the side stood ready to register people to vote. Several times during the rally, the crowd picked up the chant “Vote them out.”

Copyright 2022 Texas Public Radio. To see more, visit Texas Public Radio.

Camille Phillips