EL PASO, Texas—President Donald Trump has trash-talked this city for years.
The last time he was in El Paso, he chanted “murders, murders, murders, killings, murders” about immigrants like those who fill the city. He’s called migrants who come here “dangerous criminals” and accused asylum-seekers who arrive of “invasion.” During his State of the Union address, he said El Paso was “one of our nation’s most dangerous cities” before a border wall was constructed (it wasn’t). He kicked off his presidential campaign by calling Mexicans—like the ones who’ve lived here for generations—“rapists and criminals.”
And the city isn’t having it.
“I’m wearing my ‘Fuck Trump’ shirt under my work clothes right now, because fuck that bastard and his racist rhetoric,” said resident David Villanueva. “It just hurts so much.”
The attack cut so deep because it was apparently targeting Hispanics, who make up over 80 percent of the city’s population and have strong roots in Mexico. It’s not unusual for families to be spread across El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, living and working bi-nationally and bi-culturally.
“It pisses me off that [the shooter] drove 650 miles to my city to kill us. To kill as many Mexicans as possible because he thinks that we’re invading this country,” said Villaneuva, a Mexican American who grew up in El Paso and spent his childhood crossing into Juarez, Mexico, with his family.
The city feels shell-shocked. It is quieter than usual. Lines at blood banks are out the door. Vigils and rallies occur across the city, often with two or three at the same time. Signs and memorials are growing outside of the hospitals and at the Walmart.
But grief is turning to anger.
A protest is scheduled to greet Trump down the street from the University Medical Center where the president will meet with shooting survivors. Leading the protest are Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat who represents the city in Congress, the Border Network for Human Rights and Women’s March El Paso.
Women’s March leader Lyda Ness-Garcia told The Daily Beast that Trump is “not welcome in our community” and needs to “take ownership of his hateful words.”
Even staff at the hospital have signed a petition asking the institution to turn away Trump, writing “this visit is not consistent with the values of El Paso.”
Trump was invited to the city by Mayor Dee Margo—but with a caveat: “We will not allow anyone to portray El Paso in a manner that is not consistent with our history and values.”
The head of the El Paso County GOP said Trump would be criticized if he didn’t come for “being prejudiced against Hispanics.”
"The fact that the president is coming to El Paso to see what’s going on is an outstanding gesture on his part,” said Chairman Adolpho Telles. “He’s responsible for the nation we’re part of that, and it gives him better ideas of how to focus and how to deal with issues that need attention.”
Unlike many others here, Telles doesn’t place the blame for the attack on Trump.
“I think this individual came from an area where there is some white supremacy. I think this individual has some emotional issues, anything could have set him off, whether it was the president or something else. I don’t think it would have mattered. I think it would have occurred anyway."
Jane Terrazas, an artist living in Juarez who regularly visits El Paso, said she was more afraid of crossing the border than she was staying in Mexico, a far more dangerous city where cartels kill with impunity.
“We are connected in community with El Paso. I was supposed to go to El Paso on Saturday, but my friends told me not to go [after the shooting began]. I think even if we are living in violence every day, even though we are desensitized to violence because of the cartel, this situation affected us very deeply.”
Adri Perez grew up in both Juarez and El Paso and said family would cross the border to shop at Walmart.
“Someone came to my beloved, safe, beautiful city to kill people who look just like me,” said Perez.
Perez can’t stop thinking about why the shooter targeted the Walmart in El Paso, saying it is for the same reasons that Perez celebrates the city: It is a vibrant community of Mexicans and immigrants.
“This didn’t start with Trump and it’s not going to end when he leaves office,” Perez said, with a plea for everyone: “Do better to combat white supremacy.”