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A Mural Takes On New, Tragic Meaning In A Mourning El Paso

By Stella Chávez, KERA News

Hundreds of people in El Paso turned out Sunday for a rally against gun violence, the day after a gunman killed 22 people and wounded 26 others inside a local Walmart. The suspected 21-year-old gunman from Allen, Texas is in police custody and the shooting is being investigated as an act of domestic terrorism.

Congresswoman Veronica Escobar and Democratic Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke addressed the community along with local elected officials and faith leaders. They called on the federal government to draft a national plan to deal with white supremacy, domestic terrorism, and gun violence as a national crisis.

“El Paso is an incredible community — we have been safe for decades," said Escobar, “Historically, El Paso has led the nation in its desegregation and integration efforts; and during moments of crisis, we’ve demonstrated to the country how we treat strangers and the most vulnerable in our midst.  We will continue to do this because we have chosen to face challenges with decency, strength and love.”

Following the rally, Escobar and O’Rourke led a silent march to another ceremony. The family of a victim from last year’s mass shooting in Parkland happened to be in El Paso Sunday to unveil a mural in honor of their late son.

Joaquin Oliver was one of the 14 students killed by a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. To commemorate his birthday, his father Manuel Oliver painted a mural outside Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso.

That location near the border was chosen because Joaquin was an advocate for immigrants’ welfare in addition to speaking out against gun violence.  Oliver urged El Paso residents to become advocates too.

“This is the moment to talk about guns. We know what those families are going through – their lives have changed forever and they expect you to do something about it.”

The mural includes Joaquin’s image and jailed immigrant children. Oliver added El Paso Is Not Alone in Spanish.