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Trump Train Caravan Rolls Through Laredo As Activists And Vets Refresh Anti-Wall Mural

Thousands of Trump supporters gathered in Laredo as part of a "Trump Train" on Saturday. At the same time, activists teamed up with veterans to repaint a mural condemning President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.

The pro-Trump caravan of cars began their event with a prayer in a mall parking lot overlooking the U.S.-Mexico border.

As the decorated cars honked and began rolling, Carlos Ureño rushed to put a Trump flag on his truck. He said he didn’t vote in 2016 because he didn’t like either presidential candidate. But he said this year he was leaning toward Trump.

"I was a Democrat in the past," he said, "and I’m tired of the same thing over and over again. I want change."

Jamie Melendez drove in from McAllen to attend the event. She described herself as a socially and fiscally conservative Hispanic.

"I’m a firm believer that Hispanics have been labeled as Democrat," she explained, "and I think there’s a big shift."

Organizers said they were surprised that several thousand cars and people participated. They said they organized through the Laredo Trump Train Facebook group and didn’t reach out to groups from other cities. They believed the majority of participants were from Laredo.

“We would like to thank the people of Laredo for participating and further thank city staff for their assistance in planning this great and peaceful event,” said Hector Garza, an organizer and president of the local chapter of the National Border Patrol Council.

Credit María Méndez / Texas Public Radio
Texas Public Radio
Gigi M. E. Ramos greets the Trump Train caravan on September 13th, 2020.

Organizers had originally planned to drive their automobiles over a downtown street mural painted in protest of the proposed border wall in Laredo. Trump Train organizers agreed to change their route Thursday evening, but on Saturday some cars came within sight of the mural.

As the Trump Train moved through downtown Laredo, Gigi M. E. Ramos used her lunch break from working at a nonprofit for veterans to greet the car caravan a few blocks away from the anti-wall mural.

“I am supporting the Trump parade, hallelujah,” she shouted, waving a U.S. flag. “Build the wall and protect Americans. No American veteran should be last on the list, standing in line to try to get food, housing, education when we have people that are coming to this country illegally. I am a 100% for legal immigration. Not illegal immigration.”

Credit Maria Mendez | Texas Public Radio
The No Border Wall Coalition refreshes their "Defund the wall" mural in downtown Laredo with the help of veterans on Sept. 13th, 2020.

The No Border Wall Coalition worked with veterans on Saturday to touch up that “Defund the wall” mural.

Air Force veteran Jim Norris felt the border wall would insult Laredo’s Mexican neighbors in Nuevo Laredo.

“The idea of a border wall is really foolish,” he said, and “a horrible waste of money.”

Vietnam War veteran Ramiro Rodriguez said he was there as a proud first-generation Hispanic American whose parents came from Mexico.

“Walls are not something that we need,” he said. “We need to invest money in young people so they can grow better and improve their quality of education.”

Fernanda Orduña also joined them after finding out about the Trump Train.

“I’m holding the flag of Mexico because we just came to show our support,” she said. “I find it really dumb that there’s people protesting for the wall since most of our income comes from our Mexican neighbors.”

Credit Maria Mendez | Texas Public Radio
Fernanda Orduña waves the Mexican flag in support of the "Defund the wall" mural on Sept. 13th, 2020.

Nearby, a crew of painters worked on a new mural, titled "Back The Blue.” They said law enforcement groups hired them to paint it.

The so-called Trump Trains have emerged throughout Texas as a new way for Trump supporters to celebrate their president and his reelection. Similar pro-Trump caravans have driven through San Antonio, Boerne and New Braunfels.

The Texas Democratic Party responded to Saturday's Trump Train with a statement that highlighted the high rates of COVID-19 infections in South Texas under Trump and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

“We stand with the citizens in Laredo and across this great state who stand up to the hate-filled and divisive policies of Donald Trump,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, state party chairman, in the statement. “We must elect Joe Biden in November to build our country back better.”

Biden supporters have said they plan their own caravans.

Maria Mendez can be reached at Maria@tpr.org and on Twitter at @anxious_maria. She's a corps member of Report For America.

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