Poster boards fluttered in the downtown Las Vegas breeze Wednesday evening.
“El Paso, we’re with you,” one read in Spanish. Another, written in block letters, said, “Paz para todos.”
Peace for everyone.
In part, it was that peaceful message that 20 or so protesters — who congregated Wednesday in front of the Federal Justice Tower — shared.
They were also here to mourn the lives lost when a gunman opened fire four days earlier at a packed Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Although the scene of the massacre is about 750 driving miles southeast of Las Vegas, the anguish was apparent in Francis Garcia whose voice reverberated through a megaphone.
“We’re surrounded with people who’ve had hate injected in their heart,” she said, later breaking into tears.
The Texas suspect is alleged to have targeted the Hispanic population of El Paso.
Immigrants come to the U.S. to give their children a better future, Garcia said. “Basta ya de tanto odio!”
Enough with the hate, she said.
In a somber moment, the names of the 22 innocent victims slain in Saturday morning’s shooting were read. “Presente!” roared the small crowd roared after each name. “Present.”
Yesenia Moya Garay could not contain tears. She removed her glasses and wiped her eyes.
Mostly activists showed up, a drizzle likely serving as a deterrent for others.
The wind challenged the flicker of small white candles intended for a vigil and swirled during a moment of silence.
Attendees bowed their heads, a man also took a knee.
The event was sprinkled with political grievances. Parts of speeches targeted President Donald Trump, his rhetoric, his administration’s immigration policies, the gun lobby, and divisive politics. “No more shootings; more gun control,” read another sign.
That’s why, Garcia said, members of the Hispanic community must leave the comfort of their home and show their faces, saying, “We will not allow this to keep happening.” We can’t be guinea pigs waiting to be hunted, like what apparently occurred in El Paso, the community organizer added.
Yeny Ortega and her two daughters, ages 8 and 12, were also there. The younger girl hoisted a sign reading “more love, less hate.” Her sneakers were decorated with American flag patterns. Her older sister’s sign read, “#elpasostrong: united families.”
Ortega spoke about the sadness of leaving home one morning and not returning at night. “One has to be more aware, take care of our children so nothing happens to them.”
She has thought about her daughters and their schools, she said. One doesn’t know if you’re going to be able to see them again, or if anything could happen in their schools.”
Toward the end of the protest, rays of light broke through the cloudy sky, bouncing off the federal building’s windows. The American flag above attendees remained at half-staff.