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A close-up of the El Paso, Texas, mural that was installed this past weekend by a father whose son was killed in the Parkland, Florida, shooting. Photo by Stella M. Chávez/KERA

With a link to Parkland, this El Paso mural takes on new, tragic meaning

EL PASO, Texas — Hundreds of people in El Paso turned out Sunday for a rally against gun violence, the day after a gunman killed 22 people and wounded more than two dozen others inside a local Walmart. The 21-year-old suspect from Allen, Texas, is in police custody and authorities are investigating the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism.

Democratic Rep. Veronica Escobar and Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke on Sunday addressed the community along with local elected officials and faith leaders. They called on the federal government to draft a plan to deal with white supremacy, domestic terrorism and gun violence as a national crisis.

"El Paso is an incredible community — we have been safe for decades," Escobar said. "Historically, El Paso has led the nation in its desegregation and integration efforts; and during moments of crisis, we've demonstrated to the country how we treat strangers and the most vulnerable in our midst. We will continue to do this because we have chosen to face challenges with decency, strength and love."

Following the rally, Escobar and O'Rourke led a silent march to another ceremony. The family of a victim from last year's school shooting in Parkland, Florida happened to be in El Paso this weekend to unveil a mural in honor of their late son.

Joaquin Oliver was one of the 14 students shot and killed by a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. To commemorate Joaquin's birthday, his father Manuel Oliver painted a mural outside Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso.

That location near the border was chosen because Joaquin, 17, was an advocate for immigrants' welfare in addition to speaking out against gun violence. Oliver's father urged El Paso residents to become advocates too.

"This is the moment to talk about guns," he said. "We know what those families are going through – their lives have changed forever and they expect you to do something about it."

The mural includes Joaquin's image and jailed immigrant children. Oliver added "El Paso Is Not Alone" in Spanish.

This report originally appeared on KERA's "Art & Seek."

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