EL PASO, Texas - "President Trump is not welcome here." That message was repeated both in speeches by elected officials and on signs held by participants in a rally organized in protest of President Donald Trump's visit to El Paso on Wednesday afternoon.
"We should be very clear about this: Racism and xenophobia don't have a place here in El Paso," Fernando Garcia with the Border Network for Human Rights told the crowd of hundreds gathered on the baseball field at Washington Park in the south-central part of the city.
The Border Network for Human Rights and Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (D-El Paso) put together the rally, called #ElPasoStrong, at roughly the same time that Trump was scheduled to arrive in El Paso to meet with first responders and victims of Saturday morning's mass shooting at Walmart near Cielo Vista Mall.
Escobar's voice was tight with passion as she denounced President Trump's comments about Mexicans and the Hispanic community, as well as his use of the words "invasion" and "infestation" to describe immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Escobar demanded an apology from Trump.
"Until those words are taken back, we won't stop resisting," she said as the crowd erupted into cheers. "We won't stop resisting the racism and bigotry."
Former El Paso congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke took the stage before Escobar, and focused his brief comments around the border crisis, which has pushed the city to the forefront of the issue.
"I believe that this community holds the answer," said O'Rourke. "(We can) see our differences not as disqualifying, but as the source of its strength."
The protest drew people of all ages, including Carmen Sanchez, 66, who carried a neon green sign that read, "Please respect our pain. LEAVE."
"I feel like this man, from the beginning, has been misrepresenting us," Sanchez said. "He put a target on us, and he spoke this to the whole world."
"All these racists came down here and this is the result: people have been killed. Why?" Sanchez, said. She choked up and continued. "Because they have brown skin?"
Ahead of his departure from the White House, Trump was asked about whether he believed that his rhetoric is to blame for inciting violence and a rise in hate crimes.
"I think my rhetoric is a very -- it brings people together. Our country is doing incredibly well," he said.