EL PASO — Mariachis versus MAGA hats. Pro-wall versus pro-immigrants. President versus potential presidential hopeful.
This Texas border city of 684,000 residents was rocked Monday with dueling political rallies, as a campaign event by President Donald Trump was met with counter protests led by former Democratic congressman and El Paso native Beto O'Rourke, widely believed to be a potential contender against Trump in next year's presidential election.
Across the city, pro-Trump backers voiced their support for the president, especially in his steadfast effort to erect a border wall along the southwest border with Mexico. A campaign rally at the El Paso County Coliseum drew several thousand supporters.
Trump took a jab at his El Paso rival, calling O'Rourke "a young man who has very little going for himself except he has a great first name." His speech was interrupted repeatedly by anti-Trump protestors in the crowd.
"Where do these people come from?" Trump said, widening his arms.
A mile away, several thousand protestors shouldered a windy, cold evening to hold a counter-rally. Protestors held signs that read "Immigrants Make America Great" and "BETO 2020," while mariachi music rang out.
O'Rourke delivered a speech in both English and Spanish, denouncing Trump's policies and harsh rhetoric on immigration.
“We, together, are making a stand for the truth against lies and hate and intolerance,” he told the cheering crowd. "We are going to show the country who we are.”
The Trump rally, held in strongly Democratic El Paso, came a week after the president's State of the Union address, where he angered many locals by saying El Paso was “once considered one of our nation's most dangerous cities" until a security fence was erected. Trump has asked for $5.7 billion to build a border wall, a key sticking point in a recent government shutdown that dragged for 35 days.
Monday's rally, Trump's first political event of 2019, is likely a harbinger of more to come to garner support for the wall and his reelection campaign.
Supporters of Trump — and his calls for a wall — began lining up outside the El Paso County Coliseum as early as 6 a.m., carrying lawn chairs and sack lunches. Vendors sold Trump-themed hats, T-shirts and banners from folding tables.
Randy Ashbaugh traveled 120 miles from Truth or Consequences in New Mexico, along with his 13-year-old grandson Maddox Ashbaugh to see the president.
Granddad and grandson, both wearing Trump shirts and jackets, said they wanted to voice their support for securing the border.
“Immigration: build that wall,” Randy Ashbaugh said. “It is very important ... We need to build the wall to stop drugs and illegal immigration.”