But none of the leaders ignored the potential for high tension following the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman sparked a shooting spree earlier this week that killed 19 children and two teachers.
FULL COVERAGE: The Uvalde school shooting
Protest zones, both anti-NRA and anti-opposition, are being planned just outside the gates of Congress.
Up to 80,000 people are expected to attend the convention, which Mayor Sylvester Turner says has been on the books for two years. Turner stated that while he wished organizers would consider postponing the event, especially after the massacre, there was nothing the city could do to force a cancellation that would not leave it legally liable.
ABC13 Houston’s 24/7 streaming channel captures the scene outside the GRB in the player above. warning: This is a live stream and graphic content may appear. Adult.
So, with the set design, national attention shifts to Houston and Congress. Here are the most important things to know if the highly controversial event takes place.
The scene on 1
Barricades were spotted outside the “GRB” on Friday morning ahead of protests and counter-protests that Houston police expect outside.
According to the event schedule, on-site registration, which started Thursday afternoon, resumed at 8:00 am. The exhibition hall then opened for business an hour later.
Around noon, protesters began to gather in the designated protest zone, with chants such as “All children matter” being heard.
Just the previous afternoon, Houston City Hall was the scene of a small protest, with a protester questioning the safety of the conference and comparing the situation to a milestone during the pandemic.
“If the city can cancel the rodeo for health reasons, isn’t that a public safety issue?” said Neil Aquino, one of the people who showed up Thursday.
“I strongly believe that Mayor Turner should cancel the NRA convention,” said another protester, Polly Johnson.
The safety of protesters and participants is a top priority, city leaders say
With the NRA in Congress, whether the protesters or Mayor Turner liked it or not, Houston police and fire chiefs gave reassurances that they stand ready to ensure the safety of protesters and attendees.
“We will have enough officers to take care of anything that we need to deal with immediately,” Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said.
Turner asked people to remain peaceful and exhorted those wishing to attend.
“At some point people have to realize that it’s disrespectful to talk about guns when 19 children have been killed,” Turner said Thursday.
Eyewitness News is aware of a protest organized by several local groups at Discovery Green on Friday from 12pm to 3pm. Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic nominee for Texas governor who interrupted a Uvalde press conference the day after the shooting, is expected to attend.
Who is there and who is not?
The guest list for the event is changing.
On Thursday entertainers Lee Greenwood, Don McLean and Larry Gatlinthose scheduled to perform at the meeting withdrew in the face of the massacre.
SEE RELATED STORY: ‘American Pie’ Singer Don McLean Retires From NRA Houston Conference After Uvalde Mass Shooting
Two Republican legislators, US Rep. Dan Crenshaw and US Senator John Cornyn, both undressed a few days ago, before the Uvalde shoot. Crenshaw is in Ukraine and Cornyn, who left after Uvalde, has a scheduling conflict.
ABC13 has contacted us on several occasions Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas‘s office to find out his plans. We are told that Abbott also made the decision not to attend. Instead, Abbott will be in Uvalde for a press conference on Friday afternoon.
And just hours before the doors to Congress opened, Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick announced that he would not appear at the convention “after prayerful consideration and discussion with NRA officials.”
SEE MORE: Lt. gov. Dan Patrick breaks up conversation with NRA: ‘I don’t want to cause any extra pain’
Who else will be at the convention?
Former President Donald Trump confirmed in a statement that he will attend the convention and speak at around 2 p.m. on Friday. A speaker for US Senator Ted Cruz said the Houston legislature will also be there.
We don’t want a Uvalde to happen, say NRA attendees
Anthony Segura, an NRA trainer in Houston, New Mexico, is attending the conference and said what happened in Uvalde hit him hard since his daughter-in-law is a teacher.
“I can honestly say that three nights ago I didn’t sleep all night thinking about it,” Segura said. “Everyone blames the gun. Everyone blames the NRA. You know, we’re not the bad guys. Our main focus is safety and training.”
“We’re as sorry as everyone else. We don’t want that to happen. All we’re trying to say is blame the gun, the gun owners, the law abiding gun owners of this country, we are not the cause of this problem,” said John Thoesen, another attendee.
Check this article throughout the day for updates from the downtown Houston conference.
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https://abc13.com/nra-convention-protest-to-cancel-uvalde-texas-shooting/11900060/ Texas NRA Convention: Gov. Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick to retire; Houston braces for protests after Uvalde school shooting