EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — A week after the mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart, dozens of residents and activists from all over Texas marched through Downtown streets vowing to remember the victims and to push for gun control and an end to racism.
“We are the most loving, kind and generous community but we cannot ignore that there are forces that want to use discrimination, hatred and racism just so they have more power. That’s why it’s important for us to not ignore that what happened is domestic terrorism but also racism,” said Texas state Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-El Paso). “We cannot ignore the intersection of gun violence, domestic terrorism and racism, because when we do, those lives that we lost also get erased.”
The demonstrators carried white crosses in remembrance of the victims, held signs denouncing racism and favoring gun control and alternated between shouting slogans and singing religious hymns.
“We have seen enough bloodshed, people in hospitals and young people dying. It’s time to have gun reform in Texas,” said co-organizer Domingo Garcia, a Dallas lawyer. “We must have solid background checks on anyone who wants to buy assault rifles like AK-47s and AR-15s. We need those people to get a special license, take a safety course and have a note from a doctor certifying they are mentally stable.”
The rally organized by community activists and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) began at Armijo Park — a symbol of Latino pride here — and ended at the El Paso County Courthouse. That building stands one block away from the County Jail where suspected shooter Patrick Crusius is being kept in solitary confinement.
In addition to the 22 deaths, the attack left 24 injured last Saturday, including staff members of the youth soccer team EP Fusion. Jessica Coca Garcia was supervising a food fundraiser outside the Walmart near Cielo Vista Mall when the shooting began. Her husband Memo Garcia, coach Luis Calvillo and Jessica herself were shot while taking the children to safety.
“Racism is something I wanted to think didn’t exist. Obviously, it does. I’m here to tell you that he (the shooter) may have paralyzed us for a little bit, but like me with my wounds, we’re going to get up and we’re going to fight back,” said Jessica Garcia, who was recently released from the hospital.
Garcia fought back tears as she spoke on how she was raised in El Paso, left to pursue a career elsewhere, but came back to raise her children here. “I love you El Paso, and this is where I’m going to stay,” she said. “Nobody is going to hold me down. I will not allow this to happen again and I’m going to do something to make sure it doesn’t.”
Speakers at the rally called on the participants to put aside feelings of hate and resentment and instead channel their frustration through activism and by going out to vote.
“When we go vote at upcoming elections we need to let the world know that El Paso will not forget. We will not let them forget,” Gonzalez said.