Graduations take place at the Toyota Center; Concerns over proximity to NRA meeting, protests

HOUSTON – The Fort Bend Independent School District holds high school commencement ceremonies in bustling downtown Houston near the National Rifle Association convention and events.

Seniors from five Fort Bend County high schools walked across the stage with diplomas in hand at the Toyota Center. It was a bittersweet celebration for many, like Clements High School senior Walker Caul.

“The joke among the students today is that today is going to be a historic day, down the street,” Caul said. “We are all sad and leaving the school sphere like what happened in Uvalde.”

Several blocks from the Toyota Center, thousands of protesters and counter-protesters expressed their right to free speech regarding the NRA’s Second Amendment Conference to be held at the George R. Brown Convention Center the same week than the deadly school shooting.

“A good friend of mine, he actually didn’t come to the graduation because his family was worried about the NRA convention down the street,” said Clements High School graduate Mikolas Quinones . “It was so sad not to see him there.”

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The Fort Bend County ISD released a statement regarding the security concerns. It reads in part “the area will be heavily populated with federal, state and local law enforcement officers, which will add additional security measures for everyone in the section of downtown where the Toyota Center”.

Caul graduated with honors on Friday and plans to attend the University of Hartford Connecticut, a short distance from Sandy Hook.

“It’s sad and I hope for him at least the schools are getting safer,” Caul said looking at his younger brother. “I really do. I hope at some point there will be a sigh of relief. I think maybe on a college campus the students are a bit more motivated and there’s more access to mental health resources.

Six additional FBISD high schools will hold their commencement ceremonies Saturday at the site. The NRA convention ends on Sunday.

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