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Justice

Latest El Paso protest is peaceful, though tense

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El Paso’s latest rally to honor George Floyd and victims of police brutality ended peacefully despite moments of tension between law enforcement and protesters.

The hours-long event Tuesday night, organized by a group called the Brown Berets of El Chuco, started at Aztec Calendar Park in Downtown El Paso and drew up to about 200 participants at times.

“We need to be heard. What has happened in the black community is there has been a lot of pain and toruture by police officers and we are asking for justice,” said Quetzal Kolotl, a member of the  Brown Berets. “We are asking for justice for the Black Lives Matter (movement).”

Protesters gather near the county courthouse on Tuesday evening to protest police brutality and systemic racism. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

As part of nationwide demonstrations in response to police killings of minorities, participants held dozens of signs and passionately chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot,” “Silence is compliance,” and “I can’t breathe” while U.S. Customs and Border Protection helicopters flew overhead.

The group was also faced by a multitude of law enforcement officials from the El Paso Police Department, El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, CBP and the National Guard in full tactical gear. Law enforcement at times outnumbered protesters.

Some protesters who took a megaphone called out El Paso police for using tear gas and bean bag projectiles during a similar rally Sunday.

“It was a peaceful protest and you still tear-gassed us, you still shot (projectiles) at your citizens, your people! How dare you! How dare you!,” a female protester shouted at the line of police.

Protesters are pushed back toward a containment area near the county courthouse as police advance toward the protesters that gathered Downtown Tuesday evening. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Other participants held signs, but did not participate in the shouting and chanting. Jackson and Josephine Mainwaring said they wanted to be a part of the movement and show support, but were concerned about the police presence.

“I don’t understand why there are so many police here … it’s really unnecessary,” Jackson Mainwaring said.

Law enforcement stood quiet and still behind their plastic shields and helmets as protesters stood less than three feet away at times, occasionally shouted expletives at officers.

More than once the protesters kneeled and chanted “take a knee,” but law enforcement did not oblige the passionate group.

Police advance toward protesters and push them toward a containment area near the county courthouse on Tuesday evening. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

The protesters relocated periodically throughout the night, at one point landing at the corner of  Mills Avenue and Campbell Street near El Paso City Hall. Again, police mostly stood without speaking or reacting to the crowd.

Tension arose and screams of fear rang out when law enforcement abruptly and in unison slammed their shields into the ground and without notice a female officer in command shouted “Move it back” repeatedly as they began moving the crowd on Mills Street toward San Antonio Avenue.

At times the line of police came inches away from the handful of protesters who were falling behind. 

For another hour or so the group continued the rally at the corner of San Antonio and Stanton Street, where tensions were at times at a boiling point. At least one protester was dragged off by police and placed in the back of a squad vehicle. It wasn’t immediately clear if he was arrested, though some participants said they later saw him being released.

The protest ended with the crowd leaving peacefully.

Cover photo: A young woman who was injured by a bean bag round during Sunday night’s confrontation in Memorial Park speaks individually to officers on the line in front of City Hall. None of the officers responded to her. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Quetzal Kolotl.

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Elida S. Perez

Elida S. Perez is a longtime community and investigative reporter. Her experience includes work as city government watchdog reporter for the El Paso Times, investigative reporter for El Paso Newspaper Tree and communities reporter with the Salem, Oregon, Statesman Journal.

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