Trump, O’Rourke, plan rival rallies
EL PASO, Texas – If American politics has turned into a three-ring circus, this city will hoist the Big Top on Monday, when President Donald Trump comes to rally for a border wall, Democratic wunderkind Beto O’Rourke leads a protest march and even the Trump Baby blimp will put in an appearance.
The Trump rally at the El Paso County Coliseum will come four days before the deadline for another government shutdown, though the president could declare a national emergency over what he deems a national security crisis at the U.S.-Mexican border.
In his State of the Union speech, Trump cited El Paso, perched on the border across from Juarez, Mexico, as an example of why the United States needs to construct a wall.
The West Texas city has become the focal point for the contentious issue of immigration and the president’s push for a barrier.
O’Rourke said he sees Trump’s campaign rally as an opportunity for the city to take control of the narrative.
“I think the president’s decision to focus on El Paso and his horrible demonization and vilification of immigrants, specifically Mexican immigrants, and his desire to make us afraid of the border can work to our advantage,” he told The El Paso Times. “In other words, as he comes down here and as he referred to El Paso in his State of the Union speech, the eyes of the country are literally on us and will be even more so on Monday.”
O’Rourke, whose use of social media made him a national figure and prolific fundraiser, plans to join a 1-mile march past Trump’s rally and speak across the street from the president at around the same time Monday evening.
“He’s offering us a chance to tell our story, and we’re going to take that chance, all of us,” O’Rourke told The El Paso Times.
O’Rourke’s camp described Monday’s protest march as an effort to “show the country the reality of the border – a vibrant, safe, bi-national community that proudly celebrates its culture, history, diversity and status as a city of immigrants.”
The president said in his State of the Union address that El Paso “used to have extremely high” crime before a border fence was constructed and that the crime rate dropped substantially after it was completed.
The statement prompted blowback from local politicians and law enforcement figures. Mayor Dee Margo, a Republican, insisted that El Paso was “never” among the nation’s most dangerous cities.