More than 100 people have marched through the Texas border city of El Paso, denouncing racism and calling for stronger gun laws one week after 22 people were killed in a mass shooting that authorities say was carried out by a man targeting Mexicans.
Chanting “gun reform now” and “El Paso strong”, the marchers included Hispanic, white and black people dressed in white to symbolise peace and carrying 22 white wooden crosses to represent the victims of the shooting at an El Paso Walmart.
The man charged with capital murder in the attack, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, is said to have told investigators he targeted Mexicans at the store with an AK-47 rifle. Federal prosecutors have said they’re weighing hate-crime charges.
Jessica Coca Garcia, who was among those injured in the shooting, spoke to those gathered at the League of United Latin American Citizens “March for a United America”.
“Racism is something I always wanted to think didn’t exist. Obviously, it does,” Ms Coca Garcia said after rising from a wheelchair. Bandages covered gunshot wounds to her leg.
“I love you, El Paso,” she said, her voice cracking. “This is where I’m going to stay.”
Former US Representative Beto O’Rourke, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, also attended and spoke to the crowd.
The El Paso native has blamed President Donald Trump’s rhetoric for spreading fear and hate, leading the president to tweet that he should “be quiet”.
Mr O’Rourke said El Paso was “showing the world that hate has no home here”.
Meanwhile, several victims of the El Paso attack and another mass shooting which took place in Ohio less than 24 hours later and left nine people dead were being laid to rest.