Community and national leaders commemorated the anniversary of the white supremacist mass shooting that took the lives of 23 people and injured many others at an El Paso Walmart on this day two years ago.
Writing in an op-ed published in the El Paso Times on Tuesday, President Joe Biden said the white supremacist terrorist who drove hours to target this dynamic, binational community “thought that his hatred of immigrants could prove more powerful than the culture and vibrancy of the people of this community. He was wrong.”
“For the loved ones left behind, it has been two years of pain thinking of big and small things,” the president said. “The goals he won’t have the chance to score on the soccer field. The young infant who is now walking but without his parents holding his hand with pride—parents who showed the ultimate act of love and bravery.” The president was referencing 2-month-old Paul, whose parents, Jordan and Andre Anchondo, were killed while protecting his life.
”You lost educators and a bus driver. Grandparents and grandchildren. Americans and Mexicans and a German citizen,” he continued. “Families just out running errands. Each a life of meaning and potential and part of what makes El Paso strong. As hard as it is to believe, I want you to know that the day will come when the memory of the one you lost will bring a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. That day will come, and my prayer for you is that it comes sooner rather than later.”
The president importantly acknowledged the continued threat of white supremacist violence, which is still being peddled by Republican officials for shameless political gain. “Yet America’s intelligence community has confirmed what the people of El Paso know all too well: the most lethal terrorist threat to our homeland in recent years has been domestic terrorism rooted in white supremacy. We cannot ignore it,” he said.
In a Twitter thread, former San Antonio mayor Julián Castro said “GOP leaders continue to use language like ‘invasion’ to describe our border,” which echoes the language used by the white supremacist terrorist in El Paso. “Just last week Texas’s governor signed a ‘show me your papers’ executive order encouraging discrimination towards Latinos. This kind of language and actions fuel bigotry and inspire violence. They’re un-American and must be stopped. Words matter. They have consequences. When leaders sow division and hate, lives are at stake.”
“There was a brief moment after the shooting where Republican leaders who had used inflammatory language seemed to back down and even express a little remorse,” El Paso Rep. Veronica Escobar told The Dallas Morning News earlier this week. “That very brief moment of humanity and compassion has disappeared.” She told El Paso Matters that not only has Republican Gov. Greg Abbott “not done anything” to stop this rhetoric, “but we’ve gone in the opposite direction, the more dangerous direction on so many fronts.” The Justice Department has recently sued Texas over its dangerous order targeting migrants.
“As El Pasoans heal, and demonstrate time and again their strength and resilience, I am determined to continue honoring the victims and survivors with action and ensuring our nation never forgets this tragedy,” Escobar continued in a statement received by Daily Kos. “I will be relentless in my work to pass legislation to designate the El Paso Community Healing Garden as a national memorial, fight to end our nation’s gun violence epidemic, and strongly confront and combat those who cowardly embolden hate and racism. El Pasoans—those we have lost and those left behind to grieve—deserve no less,” she continued.
“Two years later, my heart still breaks for all the families that lost a loved one, for families who had to suffer the trauma of 08/03/19,” tweeted Mario Carrillo, an El Pasoan and campaign manager for America’s Voice. “It’s for them that we should all strive to do better, to not demonize or dehumanize those who are different from us.” In a statement leading into Tuesday’s anniversary, Carrillo said that Abbott’s “message is not subtle: Brown-skinned people are a threat.”
”My hope now is that all of us, but especially those who are elected to public office, be mindful of the words we use,” Carrillo continued on Tuesday. “Root out hatred and white supremacy in everything we do. We can't allow for hatred to win. And El Paso's resilience should be a testament to all of us.” Tributes also came in from other leaders, including former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords. “The community of El Paso responded to the racist hate of one gunman with acts of kindness and generosity. But Congress has done nothing to prevent the next tragedy,” she tweeted.
Escobar is also set to participate in a community memorial on Tuesday that will be hosted by Border Network for Human Rights. A statement received by Daily Kos from the group said the memorial will open with a procession of crosses commemorating the El Paso victims. In her statement, Escobar gave space to honoring the names of each of the 23 lives stolen on Aug. 3, 2019.
“In memory of André Pablo Anchondo, Jordan Kae Anchondo, Arturo Benavides, Jorge Calvillo Garcia, Leonardo Campos Jr., Maribel Hernandez-Loya, Adolfo Cerros Hernández, Sara Esther Regalado Monreal, Guillermo "Coach Memo" Garcia, Angelina Silva Englisbee, Maria Muñoz Flores, Raul Estrada Flores, Gerhard Alexander Hoffmann, David Alvah Johnson, Luis Alfonso Juarez, Maria Eugenia Legarreta Rothe, Ivan Manzano, Gloria Irma Marquez, Elsa L. Mendoza, Margie Reckard, Javier Amir Rodriguez, Teresa Trinidad Sanchez Guerra, and Juan De Dios Velazquez.”