Dozens of Houstonians march for young victims of gun violence

The families of two 9-year-old girls who were shot in Houston within a week of each other came together to march against gun violence Saturday.

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"It is an immense pain caused by people who cannot control [themselves]," says Gwen Alvarez through her tears.

A hug and a joining of hands were key moments as the mother of Arlene Alvarez was comforted by the grandmother of Ashanti Grant moments after they met.

Both Arlene and Ashanti were shot within a week of one another while out with their families in Houston.

"Nobody else can understand unless they’re going through it themselves," says Ashanti’s grandmother Elaine Grant-Williams.

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On February 8, Ashanti was riding with her family to the store, when a white GMC Denali started driving aggressively around them. Someone inside shot at their truck, hitting Ashanti in the head and landing her in critical condition.

"Even at your saddest moments, in your darkest days, somebody else understands, and to be able to stand in their presence- it helps to comfort you," says Williams.

The following Monday, the Alvarez family was going out for Valentine’s dinner, stopping at a Chase Bank in Gulfgate for cash.

MORE: Family members react after 9-year-old girl was fatally shot by robbery victim

Police say after being robbed at the ATM, 41-year-old Tony Earls fired into the family's truck thinking it was the robbery suspect.

Arlene was shot in the head and later died at the hospital.

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Starting at the Chase bank on Woodridge Saturday morning, nearly a hundred people, including Grant family members, joined in a march against gun violence toward 610 Loop, holding signs and chanting, "Justice for Arlene." 

The march took place two days after Earls was released on bond, charged with aggravated assault.

"That person‘s not in front of you. It’s not a threat anymore, so it’s not self-defense," says Armando Alvarez, Arlene’s father before the start of a rally preceding the march.

"They need to suffer what we suffer because we don’t sleep," adds Gwen. "We go through the pain, and they don’t. They come out without bond and still do illegal stuff."

The protestors condemned irresponsible gun ownership and Texas's open carry law, allowing permitless carry of handguns in public since September.

Local leaders told the largely Hispanic crowd to exercise their power during upcoming elections.

According to the 2020 census, Hispanics are expected to soon become the largest population group in Texas.

Marchers say they want to use those numbers to help guard their communities and change laws.

Since the start of February, at least two other Houston children have been shot, including 11-year-old Darius Dugas who was killed while getting his coat from a car. 

MORE: 11-year-old shot while getting jacket from car laid to rest, suspected killer behind bars

"A lot of people like her are coming to me and my husband," says Mrs. Alvarez, while holding the hand of Ashanti’s grandmother.v"It hurts me that a lot of people are relating to my case. I never knew this happens to so many families, and they don’t get help."

As Ashanti fights for her life in the hospital, her grandmother says they will continue supporting the Alvarez family, uniting to help save the children of Houston.

"We want y’all to know we’re here," says Grant-Williams.