WASHINGTON – United States President Donald Trump plans to visit the border city of El Paso, Texas, where at least 22 people were killed in a recent mass shooting, the city’s mayor announced on Monday.
El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said at a press conference that the visit, scheduled for Wednesday, was not political and explained that it was his “formal duty” to welcome Trump despite their disagreements following the latter’s criticism of the Texan city earlier this year.
“I will continue to challenge any harmful and inaccurate statements made about El Paso. We will not allow anyone to portray El Paso in a manner that is not consistent with our history and values,” Margo said, adding that he planned to ask Trump for sufficient federal resources to face the aftermath of the traumatic killing spree.
The attack took place on Saturday morning, when the 21-year-old white male shooter – who reportedly espoused a white supremacist and radically xenophobic ideology online – opened fire on customers at a Walmart Supercenter with a semi-automatic WASR-10 rifle, killing at least 22 people and injuring 24 before being arrested.
The president’s trip will come after local Democratic Party political leaders such as presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke and Congresswoman Veronica Escobar publicly voiced their opposition to his visit.
“This president, who helped create the hatred that made Saturday’s tragedy possible, should not come to El Paso. We do not need more division. We need to heal. He has no place here,” O’Rourke wrote on his Twitter account Monday.
The alleged shooter, Patrick Wood Crusius, appears to be an avid Trump supporter and had quoted the president – whose 2016 campaign heavily relied on stoking racial resentments and fears of a Hispanic “invasion” of the US through mass migration via the southern border with Mexico – several times in a manifesto posted on the website 8chan, a notorious platform for far-right extremists.
Texas has been “Hispanic” since Spanish conquistadors started colonizing the area, which was at the time inhabited by multiple Native American tribes, in the early 16th century.
The tense relationship between Trump and the local leaders of El Paso started at the beginning of the year following Trump’s comments about this border city with Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez, which the president made during his State of the Union address.
In his speech, the president claimed that, before the construction of the wall between the two cities between 2008-09, El Paso was considered “one of our nation’s most dangerous cities” for its “extremely high” rate of violence, a statement that was easily proven to be false.
Following this shooting, Trump has made every effort to distance himself from the shooter as news of Crusius’ political inclinations spread.
“In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy,” Trump said in a statement from the White House.
Local media reported that the president also plans to visit the city of Dayton, Ohio, where a 24-year-old man killed nine people – including his sister – in a shooting that occurred mere hours after the tragedy in El Paso.
In this regard, the mayor of Dayton, Nan Whaley, said that the president said he might visit them sometime during the week.
The two mass shootings this weekend, which occurred just hours apart, have rocked the country with their staggering combined toll of 31 deaths and dozens of injuries, reopening the recurring debate over the need for federal regulations on the purchase and possession of firearms.