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Border & Immigration

RGV Activists Held Mock Funeral Procession To Protest Border Wall

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Reynaldo Leaños Jr. | Texas Public Radio
A truck has been converted into a hearse for a mock funeral procession to protest the border wall.

In Pharr, Texas — where part of the border wall is being constructed — Robert Lopez stands next to a truck that has been converted into a hearse.

The truck is decorated with flowers, and there’s a sign on top of the truck that reads “Cancel the Wall.” On the other side of the sign, it says “3,000 RGV Dead,” referring to the number of people in the region who have died from COVID-19.

“We’re outside a bollard staging area, which bollards are the materials that build up the border walls,” said Lopez, who is with the Texas Civil Rights Project. “The City of Pharr signed a resolution back in 2017 against the wall, and yet here we are standing where they have permitted a site that contains thousands of bollards.”

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Reynaldo Leaños Jr. | Texas Public Radio
Bollards that will be used for the border wall.

Lopez is getting ready to remove a coffin from the back of the truck, but there isn’t a body inside.

“We’re going to put that resolution in the coffin, drive it in a funeral procession over to the Jackson Ranch Cemetery and chapel, and then we’re going to take it and drop it off at city hall,” Lopez said.

President Trump has promised that more than 400 miles of border wall will be completed by the end of year, and there are several wall projects that are at different phases in the Rio Grande Valley.

Anti-wall activists gathered in Pharr and held a mock funeral procession on Sunday to protest wall construction in a region where the virus has had deep impacts.

Dozens of people joined Lopez in a procession and started to walk back to their cars, which were decorated with a black bow.

The cars are lined up one after another, ready to begin the funeral procession. Their next stop was the Jackson Ranch Church and Cemetery where parts of the wall have gone up nearby within the last month.

Sylvia Ramirez and other family members have descendants buried there.

“The border wall construction continues at full speed by the government, both on the east side and the west side of this section of property that encompasses the two cemeteries and the church,” Ramirez said. “We have a TRO in place, a temporary restraining order, until October 13, and thereafter we don’t know what kind of protections we’ll have.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has previously said in a statement to TPR that they have “developed measures to ensure that the current plan for new border wall system in this location does not impact the Eli Jackson Cemetery or the Jackson Ranch Church and Cemetery.”

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Reynaldo Leaños Jr. | Texas Public Radio
Border wall construction taking place near the Jackson Ranch Church and Cemetery.

Lopez told the crowd that he and members of the Rio Grande Valley No Border Wall Coalition sent a letter to the City of Pharr asking them to revoke the permit that allows bollards to be held at the staging area, so that they’re forced to move those materials to another location.

“And it is our hope that that can delay the process of the wall actually coming up because if they have to continue moving it from city to city, then it can’t actually happen,” Lopez said.

The mayor of Pharr, Ambrosio Hernandez, said he has an open door policy for residents of the city and that Pharr still opposes the border wall.

“I hope they come,” he said. “I mean a lot of people tell me they come and I got to tell you not many come, which is disappointing because I like to have dialogue, so I can understand better, but I hope they do.”

Hernandez told Border Report that the site where the steel bollards are at is private property, not city-owned land.

Lopez, with the Texas Civil Rights Project, said the funeral procession is also meant to condemn the federal government for continuing to spend money and resources to build border wall and for filing eminent domain claims against people, while their community is being disproportionately affected by the virus.

“Congress appropriated enough money, billions of dollars, for a border wall in the Rio Grande Valley. Over 100 miles of wall,” he said. “Can you imagine what we could do with that money? Put towards PPE, put to getting our children equal access to broadband internet and put to making sure we can respond to this. We argue we could save so many lives if we weren’t spending so much money, needlessly, on these projects.”

Lopez also said that there are other forms of border militarization in the region.

“There’s also detention centers in nearly every single county, there are warehouses where children and adults are being held,” he said. “If it’s not the physical wall, there are predator drones flying above us, there are large trucks with cameras and blimps in the sky, so it feels like again, another site that represents this whole misguided complex that is growing around us.”

While some activists want to delay the border wall project taking place near the church until after the election, others are skeptical that they’ll be able to stop this section of the wall and other projects like it.

Border wall has been built in the Rio Grande Valley under President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama and President Trump.

Jonathan Salinas has been with the No Border Wall Movement in the RGV for several years.

“So I think we’re going to have to keep in mind that we’re going to have to keep fighting, keep the pressure on and never believe that any politician or any major political party can solve this problem for us,” Salinas said. “We’re going to have to do it ourselves with continued pressure, nonviolently, with a lot of discipline, just like today and keep this up.”

Vice President Joe Biden has pledged to halt all border wall construction under his administration if elected.

That may stop other wall projects along the Texas-Mexico border, but the window for this 11-mile stretch of wall is quickly closing.