Trump, O’Rourke, plan ri­val ral­lies

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS - Doug Stan­glin, Madlin Mekel­burg and John C. Moritz

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.

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