Q&A: ‘Too many have died already’ for student protest leader
Hoping to achieve gun reform, exercise science sophomore Ariel Hobbs ended up walking locked arms with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo.
The UH sophomore felt enough was enough with school shootings and helped plan the Houston March For Our Lives protest, which drew a reported 15,000 people, a little over a month after the Parkland Shooting. It was one of dozens that occurred across the country on March 24.
Hobbs’ role in the protest involved public relations and interviewing with Houston media. She helped secure permits and made sure the the event was accessible for any attendee.
The Cougar: How did you get involved with organizing such a large protest?
Ariel Hobbs: I have been following the whole thing that happened in Parkland since Valentine’s Day. When I saw that they were holding a march, I initially was going to go to D.C. I was like, ‘This is something I’m really passionate about, and I really want to be involved.’
But then I saw (march organizers) post that they were doing sister marches all over the country. I was like, ‘Let me see if there’s one in Houston.’ So when I was looking, my mom actually sent me a link to the March for Our Lives Houston page. I contacted Alyssa DuPree, who’s the one that created the page, and kind of the rest is history.
The Cougar: Do you think it was a success?
Hobbs: One thousand percent. We were very, very excited with the turnout. What we’re hearing from police, about 15,000 people, which really superseded what we expected. We were hoping for at least 10,000.
It really made us feel good and made us feel we are not in this alone. People are listening, and people do stay behind us. We are not just some crazy kids talking about whatever. We actually have people that support us in this. Especially the mayor, who committed to making a commission with students and adults to help work on this issue, along with the police chief.
This is not the end. We have a town hall on Saturday at Rice.
The Cougar: What was it like to have the support of Mayor Turner and Chief Acevedo at the March?
Hobbs: It was like a good boost. Because — mayors and police chiefs — that’s our local government. If we want to make local change and start change happening, those are the people we have to get to first. We understand, being in a red state like Texas, having the support of your mayor and chief of police means a lot. Those are the people that go up to Austin sometimes. They are talking to other mayors or chiefs of police. Those are people that can speak for us.
Having them stand with us on the issue and not be an adversary, it makes things go by smoother and gives you a push of support.
The Cougar: Do you think they are firmly committed to change?
Hobbs: I do. The mayor said he is going to create a commission in his speech, which was recorded. So if he goes back on that, it’s on tape. Which I don’t think he will. We are actually going to meet with him soon.
They seem like people who when they say something, they mean it.
The Cougar: How does it make you feel seeing thousands of people, mostly young, have a voice in a national discussion you helped organize?
Hobbs: It feels great. We all get our political beliefs and our standings from parents for the most part, unless you just totally reject what they believe in.
A lot of us between now and the 2020 election are going to become eligible to vote. Before, you had to get the older generation. Those were the ones that were able to vote. Millennials just started being able to vote, for the most part. Now we actually have the power of the vote. Having this large group of people who are so motivated — it lets me know change is coming. We aren’t stopping. We aren’t going away.
It’s inevitable. It’s something we should welcome with open arms, not me against you.
The Cougar: What was your reaction after learning the news of the Parkland Shooting?
Hobbs: I would really love to say shocked. I was born in 1997, so Columbine happened two years after that, and it’s kind of been happening non-stop.
I mean, after the 21 second and first graders and nothing really happened after that, these have become become commonplace to me. I was sad for the people, because it’s never easy seeing so many people that are like my age, just gone. It was sad but not shocking, which is sad to say.
The Cougar: What made you become an active participant in the nationwide discussion on gun control?
Hobbs: In my family, I’ve always been outspoken one. If I don’t like something, I definitely let everyone know I don’t like this. And so I kind of just build over into my everyday life.
I just kind of felt like enough is enough. How many more kids have to die? How many families have to bury family members? How many lives have to stop for this to stop?
I’ve grown up in Texas. I’ve grown up around hunters, and I have family members that have guns. But one thing that when I talk to them about this issue, they all say, ‘Yeah I wish it was harder for me to get a gun.’ Too many people have died already.
The Cougar: What kind of policy changes would you want?
Hobbs: Sensible gun reform. I’ve never been one to be like ‘Oh, I’m going to take all your guns away.’ That’s never been me. I don’t feel like that’s right. There is a second amendment for a reason, and people should be allowed to have guns.
I know speaking on my personal beliefs and also on behalf of the March we would like certain customizations, like bumps stocks, to be banned. Certain customizations that would allow a semi-automatic weapon to turn into an automatic weapon. We want stronger background checks.
Those are just simple things that could be implemented.
The Cougar: Do you think legislators are listening?
Hobbs: No, and I say that on in regards to both of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans. I don’t think any of them are listening.
And for so long, they’ve been able to just give condolences and give lip service and not really be forced on the issue. Because there’s something bigger that takes hold, whether it’s the economy or we are in a war. Something supersedes it, and it just gets put by the wayside until the next Las Vegas, Parkland, Sandy Hook, Columbine, Sutherland, Pulse or San Bernardino happens. The cycle repeats itself.