Officials in South Texas are concerned that President Donald Trump’s trip to Alamo, Texas, on Tuesday, January 12, 2021, could result in large protests and violence following last week’s deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Trump’s trip to the border town is being billed as an opportunity for him to celebrate the completion of more than 450 miles of border wall — most of which replaced existing barriers. But local officials in the Rio Grande Valley on Monday and early Tuesday were expressing concern over the trip and urging for all expected demonstrations to be peaceful.
The City of Alamo on Monday afternoon said its city commission and administration had not been formally contacted about Trump’s trip, which was announced over the weekend. And Robert Salinas, Alamo’s city manager, urged that all demonstrations be “peaceful and respectful.”
Some officials outright pushed for Trump to not visit South Texas for fear that it will incite more violence and disregard for social distancing and mask-wearing. The Rio Grande Valley has consistently been one of the areas of Texas’s most hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic with a recent spike in hospitalizations.
“[S]uch a public event may trigger similar conduct and further affect the current severe COVID-19 crisis located in Cameron County and the Rio Grande Valley,” Eddie Treviño, Jr., county judge of the neighboring Cameron County, said on Tuesday morning.
Trump’s visit marks the first time he has stepped out in public since the deadly riots at the Capitol. Trump told reporters before boarding his plane to Alamo that he did not want violence and touted the controversial border wall for making “a tremendous difference on the southern border.”
James Darling, mayor of neighboring city McAllen, said he understands “that emotions are high on both sides,” but also urged for peaceful demonstrations.
“Passions are running dangerously high among supporters and opponents of President Trump,” Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez said ahead of Trump’s trip to the area. “I urge both sides to keep those passions in check because ultimately the Rio Grande Valley has a unique opportunity to demonstrate to the world that peaceful public discourse is far more effective than public violence.”
Still, protesters across the political spectrum were expected to be in South Texas to express support for and against Trump.
Members of the Hidalgo County GOP were “calling all Conservatives, Patriots & Freedom Fighters” on Facebook and Twitter to welcome Trump to the border area with posters.
LUPE, a nonprofit founded by farmworker and civil rights leaders Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, announced it would host a rally against Trump and white supremacy. The group criticized local officials for not having a stronger message against Trump’s visit.
“This failure of leadership will now result in white supremacists freely rallying in our streets. We condemn this lack of leadership. Should any violence occur on Tuesday, all public officials who did nothing to stop this visit will be held accountable for their failure to respond to the concerns of the community,” the group wrote in a statement.
While President-elect Joe Biden comfortably won the Latino-majority county where Trump is visiting, Hidalgo County is one of the areas in South Texas where Trump made his most significant improvements in the 2020 election. Trump boosted his numbers there by more than 23 percent compared to 2016 but still lost by 17 percent.