Story+Gallery: As El Paso mourns, residents welcome, others protest President Trump’s visit

Wednesday the city of El Paso braced for President Trump’s arrival.  As the day went on the temperature rose – as did tensions.

In Washington Park, leaders from the Border Network for Human Rights and the Women’s March of El Paso led an anti-Trump rally. Hundreds showed up, ready to send Trump away.

The crowd chanted “El Paso Strong,” as well as “pay us back,” a reference to the unpaid bills of Trump’s last El Paso visit.

There was no shortage of harsh words for the president — or love for El Paso. Among the speakers were former El Paso Representative and presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke and Representative Veronica Escobar.

Local organizer Adri Perez spoke to the crowd about their own connection to the community – and their love for El Paso and Juarez. They also cautioned that the white supremacy that motivated the shooter didn’t start with Trump – and won’t end, they said, when Trump leaves office.

Prior to the rally, a community letter against Trump circulated through the city.

The letter read, in part: “this shooter was inspired by your words and your attitudes… your constant reliance on sowing hatred and fear, your embrace of racism and white supremacy, all of this over these past years has brought us to this place of pain.  Given this history of hate on your part, we ask that you stay away.”

Just a few blocks away, a crowd gathered outside of UMC. While rumors of the presidents visit swirled, a contingent of Trump fans waited. Their signs and red hats a sharp contrast to the protest just down the road.

When the Washington Park rally ended, many individuals made their way to the hospital. Fearing a confrontation, police in riot helmets — many with face shields — kept the crowd off of the street.

While shouting did occur, the crowd remained peaceful. At one point, Trump’s supporters broke into a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, followed by many choruses of Amazing Grace.

Meanwhile, hundreds gathered outside of Walmart. The gathering was impromptu – it wasn’t organized by the city or any organization. “This is just El Paso,” said one mourner at the scene.

Volunteers passed out water in the 100-degree heat. A man passed out free paletas. Some at the memorial offered free hugs, others prayer.

Among the crowd outside the memorial, reactions on Trump’s visit were mixed.

One individual mused that Trump would be blamed if he came or if he didn’t. Another wondered why Trump came at all — wishing he could have just set Melania.

Yet another mourner chimed in, saying Trump wasn’t welcome in this town.

Photos by the Author+ Chief Photographer Andres Acosta – El Paso Herald Post and as otherwise noted in each photo.