Calls for uniting America -- and for gun reform -- echoed through the streets of El Paso Saturday. The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) organized a march a week after a mass shooting rocked the heavily Latino city.
The marchers held 22 large white crosses, one for each person who died, as they walked down Campbell Street to the county courthouse. LULAC’s “March for a United America” was designed to spotlight racist rhetoric and energize people to challenge gun laws.
The chants include phrases like “el pueblo unido jamás será vencido,” which roughly translates to “the people united will never be defeated.”
Domingo Garcia, the Dallasite who is national president of LULAC, called the shooter a bigot, racist and a white supremacist.
“We’re marching because we’re not going to be terrorized, we’re not going to be turned around. We’re not going to stand for this type of politics of hate and the rhetoric coming about making Latinos and immigrants political piñatas to score points in an election,” he said. “That has to stop, and we’re standing up and saying enough is enough.
The 21-year-old suspect is from Allen, a suburb about 30 miles north of Dallas. El Paso Police say he confessed to the shooting and told them he was targeting “Mexicans.”
— Joey Palacios (@Joeycules) August 10, 2019
Among those leading the march was Pastor Michael Grady of the Prince of Peace Christian Fellowship in El Paso. His daughter Michelle is recovering after the gunman shot her three times.
“Hate has no home here, racism has no home here,” Grady said from a microphone. “He had in his heart to kill Latinos. My daughter is an African American female. Bullets don’t know who they’re going to hit.”
Grady said Michelle still has several surgeries to go, but she’s being strong.
He said some of the responsibility belongs to President Trump.
“Because of the rhetoric that’s coming out of the White House and the leadership, their hatred has filled our city once again. And I say to ourselves, El Paso, that together we can change things, together we can come together in unity.”
El Paso native Jiovana Arzate now lives in Austin. She came back home for Saturday’s march with several friends. She said this kind of crime in the border community was unimaginable, and it will have a lasting impact on how she embraces her heritage.
“In order to protect myself, I feel like I can’t be as proud as I am because there’s people out there who hate me just because I’m Hispanic.”
Two dozen people were injured in the Aug. 3 shooting. One of the survivors is Jessica Coca Garcia. She and her husband, Memo Garcia, were at the Walmart for a soccer fundraiser last Saturday. Both were shot.
“Racism is something I always wanted to think didn’t exist,” she said. “Obviously it does. And I’m here to tell everybody, he may have paralzyed us for a little bit but like me with my wounds we’re going to get up and we’re going to fight back.”
She came to a post-march rally right after leaving the hospital, organizers said. Her husband is still hospitalized.
The rally was held just down the street from the El Paso County Detention Facility, where the shooter is being held. He is facing one count of capital murder, with more state charges likely. Federal authorities are treating the incident as domestic terrorism and could levy hate-crime charges.
On of the calls for unity came from Beto O’Rourke, the El Paso native and former congressman who’s running for president. He described the neighboring border cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez one of the safest bi-national communities in the western hemisphere.
And that’s “not despite, but because we are a city of immigrants and refugees and asylum seekers from the world over who have found a home here,” O’Rourke said. “And their very presence makes us stronger, and safer, and more successful than we could have ever hoped to have been.”
Multiple marchers held signs calling for gun reform. Chris Vasquez works with LULAC and a group called Students Demand Action in the Dallas suburb of Frisco. He says the first two steps for gun reform are background checks and the passing of red flag laws.
“For far too long they have not given us any meaningful legislation to help protect and defend the lives of people we love most, and I feel like today is that call to action,” he said.
Maggie Rodriguez is a lifelong El Paso resident. She believes lawful gun ownership should come with responsibilities.
“I really believe that anybody should have the right to carry a gun and the second amendment is absolutely something that anybody should have,” she said. “But the problem with this is that people forget that the second amendment has the word 'regulated' and that’s what we really want to say is ‘let’s regulate this.”
The names of the El Paso Shooting victims are read aloud at a rally following today’s march by @LULAC national president Domingo Garcia.
— Joey Palacios (@Joeycules) August 10, 2019
At the end of Saturday's march and rally, the names of the 22 were read aloud, and a white balloon was released for each.
Joey Palacios can be contacted at Joey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules
Lauren Terrazas can be contacted at Lauren@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Terrazas_Lauren.