‘Unbelievably angry’: Hundreds protest at Capitol for March for Our Lives, demand gun reform

Protest+gooers+hold+up+a+sign+at+the+March+for+Our+Lives+protest+on+June+11%2C+2022.+The+protest+was+held+in+reaction+to+the+school+shooting+in+Uvalde%2C+Texas+in+May.+

Kara Hawley/The Daily Texan

Protest gooers hold up a sign at the March for Our Lives protest on June 11, 2022. The protest was held in reaction to the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas in May.

Claire Stevens, News Reporter

Hundreds of people rallied at the Capitol on Saturday to demand politicians take action to prevent gun violence following numerous mass shootings across the country, including in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children were killed on May 24.

Protesters called for universal background checks and common-sense gun reform measures to be passed. The rally was one of the hundreds nationwide organized by March for Our Lives, a student-led organization that advocates for gun reform and an end to school shootings. In Austin, students, teachers, community organizers and the relatives of two of the victims of the Uvalde shooting addressed the crowd from the steps of the Capitol building.

The family of Jackie Cazares, one of the 19 students killed in Uvalde, came to the rally to demand justice for her life. Jazmin Cazares, whose younger sister Jackie and cousin Annabell Rodriguez were both killed in the shooting at Robb Elementary School, said she’s haunted by the fact that she woke up late the morning of the shooting and did not get to say goodbye to her sister. 

“I am unbelievably angry, but I’m not going to turn that anger into hate,” Cazares said. “I’m going to channel that anger. I’m going to create some real change.”

Levi Langley, an Anderson High School student who is the head of March for Our Lives Austin, said she has been passionate about preventing gun violence since the 2018 shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed.

“We’ve been given no choice but to care, to act and continue to fight because this is our future,” Langley said. “This is our education that is on the line.”

Shayna Levy, an Anderson High School student who helped organize the rally, said while some states have passed legislation since the Parkland shooting, more must be done to save lives. 

“As long as we aren’t safe in this country, we will protest, and as long as gun violence remains persistent, we will demand action,” Levy said.

Jillian Dworin, an incoming radio-television-film freshman, also spoke at the rally. Dworin said she spent much of her high school graduation thinking about the students who did not survive to reach their own graduations.

“Walking across that stage is something that students at Parkland, Santa Fe, Roseburg, Sandy Hook, Uvalde and literally hundreds more will never experience,” Dworin said. “I remember every single day walking into the doors thinking, ‘Is today the day?’ It was never a matter of if — it was a matter of when.”

Chrissy Hejny, who has been a teacher with Austin Independent School District for 10 years, said she keeps her classroom doors locked and practices lockdown drills. Hejny said these measures are detrimental to students’ mental well-being and called for Texas lawmakers to take action.

“Every time a mass shooting occurs, Texas lawmakers bring out all the tired old straw man talking points in the attempt to shift the focus off the real problem,” Hejny said. “To the mental and behavioral health experts, law enforcement officials and my fellow educators, it’s time for us, the professionals, to combine forces, draft legislation and make real change happen.”