Presidential Candidate Beto O’Rourke officially kicked off his Grassroots Campaign in the heart of Downtown El Paso, on the corner of El Paso Street and Overland Drive.
O’Rourke arrived on stage around 10:45 a.m.; introduced by his wife Amy O’Rourke, walking onto the stage to the song, “We are looking for a clampdown,” by the Clash.
“It was really important for Amy and me to launch this campaign, it’s the city where I was born. It’s the same city where Amy and I are raising our three kids. And perhaps most important, El Paso to me represents America at it’s best,” O’Rourke said to the crowd.
More than 1,000 supporters turned out to his event on Saturday, and the streets of El Paso and Overland were filled with his supporters, who carried pro-Beto signs.
Throughout his speech supporters for President Donald Trump booed in the distance. But O’Rourke was undeterred and instead called for the divided America to put the business of the country before them.
“This is a campaign for America,” he said.
Immigration, quality universal healthcare, and mental health support for veterans were among the first topics that O’Rourke touched on in his speech.
“Let us come together by prioritizing a policy that begins by prioritizing affordability in prescription medications that brings down the cost of our premiums and our deductibles.”
O’Rourke added that everyone should have access to quality healthcare and mental healthcare. He added that providing that universal healthcare should also allow women to choose what they want to do with their own bodies.
“We can give every American, every business in this country the choice to enroll in medicare without eliminated plans that many Americans like for their families because those plans work. No one left behind, no one priced out. We must get universal guaranteed high quality healthcare as soon as possible.”
O’Rourke continued laying out his platform by sharing that he supports unions, investment in hospitals and infrastructure for rural communities and supporting agriculture and providing them with incentives to capture the carbon emitted.
“Thanks to our own emissions and excess this planet has warmed to 1 degree Celsius, and the fires, droughts and floods and the man-made disasters will only get worse,” O’Rourke said. “This is our moment with little more than 10 years to spare – to free this economy for our dependence on fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions, to make investments in new and green technology.”
O’Rourke additionally pointed out his views that included:
* Equal Pay for Women
* Paid Family Leave
* Access to Capitol for Communities that have been actively shut out.
* Ending the federal prohibition of marijuana and expunging the records for those who had possession of it – something that is medically and recreationally legal in several states.
* Freeing Dreamers from any fear of deportation and create a comprehensive immigration reform.
Earlier this week, more than 500 Central Americans were detained at the border of the Paso Del Norte Bridge, where they are being temporarily housed underneath the bridge.
Other policies that O’Rourke disagreed with included Trump’s policy that enacted the separation of families in the Spring 2018, which sprung up the Tornillo Detention Center, where children were placed while they waited to be processed. Two children died while in the custody of ICE.
O’Rourke, made it a point to stress that not another child should be separated from their families while in custody.
“Let’s bring millions more out of the shadows and onto a path to their maximum potential to the success of this country,” O’Rourke said of the Dreamers. “Let’s make sure that we don’t take another child from another mother. Let us reunite every single of those families that are separated. Let’s remember that those that are detained under the international bridge behind chain fences and barbed wire – they are our fellow human beings and deserve to be treated like our fellow human beings.”
O’Rourke stressed that security for the border needs to focus on not building a wall, but rather focusing on securing the ports of entry and facilitating trade and travel; and supporting the Customs and Border Protection agents.
“For 20 years we have been one of the safest cities in America,” he said. “We are safe not despite the fact that we are a city of immigrants and asylum seekers. We are safe because we are a city of immigrants and asylum seekers. We understand that we are in the words of Dr. King caught in an inescapable network of mutuality – tied in a single garment of destiny. And that’s why i’ms o glad to be here with you today in my hometown and my hometown to let you know that I’m running to serve you as the next president in the United States of America.”
O’Rourke then switched up his speech and spoke in Spanish.
“El exito de este pais depende de cada persona entre los Estados Unidos,” O’Rourke said.
His speech was briefly interrupted by chants of, “Si se pude,” (Yes we can!)
O’Rourke did make one campaign promise clear.
“As president I will sign into law a new voting rights act. We will end gerrymandering, we will take money out of our politics. And all across this country we will have automatic and same day voter registration across this country.”
At the counter rally, held outside the Plaza Theater, Trump supporters held signs against O’Rourke’s policies including his stance on abortion and immigration.
Brenda Vigil held up her sign that read, Beto equals Liar.
“I was born here in El Paso but I’ve lived here all my adult life, and a friend told me that this is the new Juarez. And I thought – yea right. But this is the new Juarez. All these people that have been living in the shadows – Dreamers whatever you want to call them, we don’t reward people in the United States for committing crimes. If we incarcerate Americans for committing crimes, why do you object Beto to incarcerating illegal immigrants that commit crime. That doesn’t make sense.”
Vigil strongly believed that O’Rourke’s run for president was being done for attention.
“Beautiful family, beautiful rich family – they need to be on a reality show – not the presidency,” she said.
Carolyn, who didn’t want to give out her last name, said that she was embarrassed for O’Rourke and his family. She held up a sign that read, “The Russia Hoax is finally dead. The Collusion Delusion is over. Trump 2020.
“What has he done? He did nothing in the Senate,” Carolyn said. “And he was a crappy city councilman.”
Throughout the morning, the anti-Beto protest grew and passerby who had just completed the bike race down a few blocks away; and other O’Rourke Supporters who needed to get by to get to their rally, or who had just finished purchasing a Starbucks walked in front of the Trump supporters.
Many of them simply ignored the protesters. But in some instances, a couple of Trump supporters got in the faces of those who were walking toward the O’Rourke Kickoff.
“Stop killing our babies,” One woman said. “Beto supports abortion. Babies have a right to life – you’re here. Why are you here?”
Another Trump supporter, who held a sign that read, walked toward and shouted at those that were heading toward the kickoff. “You’re going the wrong way!”
After O’Rourke’s kickoff in El Paso his next stop is Houston where he will speak at Texas Southern University at 5 p.m. Then, he’s heading to Austin where he is scheduled to speak at 9 p.m., at 9th and Congress.
Author: Alex Hinojosa | Photos: Andres Acosta – El Paso Herald Post