Standing on a platform surrounded by a crowd of screaming fans and waving signs, Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke told a packed theater at his Rally Against Fear about his plans and dreams for the country.
Throughout the night, he and other speakers focused on the need for gun control, immigration and healthcare reform and denounced the imprisonment of immigrant children and last week’s shooting of Atatiana Jefferson, a 28-year-old woman who was killed in her home by a Fort Worth police officer.
Many issues make it easy to be afraid right now, he said, but it’s important to come together and work to overcome terror, racism, sexism and discrimination.
“We cannot stand for that fear because we must stand for those who have been the victims of that fear,” he said.
Rather than speak from the stage behind him, he opted to stand among the people who came to support him at Thursday night’s event in Grand Prairie. The theater seats 6,000 people and was packed to the gills.
“I love you all,” he said to open his speech, turning to face the people who surrounded him on all sides.
It is this of-the-people persona that attracted a loyal group of supporters to the 2020 Democratic presidential primary candidate.
“I just love his energy. He’s got that Kennedy charisma,” said Maricela Sanchez-Chibli.
Sanchez-Chibli, who attended the rally in a rhinestone-emblazoned “Beto” hat and “El Paso Strong” T-shirt, is from El Paso, although she lives in Dallas now. Her father and O’Rourke were members of the El Paso County Commissioners Court together. In O’Rourke, she sees the same down-to-earth spirit her father had.
“I believe in him, I think he’s for the people,” she said.
Sanchez-Chibli volunteered for the O’Rourke Senate campaign last year because she thinks he supports average, working Americans, women’s issues and affordable healthcare.
As he has throughout his campaign, and particularly since a shooting in his hometown of El Paso took the lives of 22 people, O’Rourke emphasized a need for unity in the country. He spoke of a need to come together, to overcome fear and to build bridges not walls.
“It is no longer sufficient not to be racist — each one of us must commit to being anti-racist going forward,” O’Rourke told the crowd.
Retired teacher Chyrll McDonald, who was in the audience, especially likes that O’Rourke supports teachers.
“But mainly Beto speaks for everyone,” she said.
After speaking, O’Rourke made his way offstage to the sounds of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come.” And it’s that change Lane Terrell brought his two children out to see and support. It was the boys’ first political event, but they’re starting to become interested in politics and Terrell wanted them to see the rally.
“What my son sees coming from the White House is distressing … my son wakes up and asks why doesn’t Trump like kids who look like me?” Terrell said.
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Terrell was wearing a “BETO for Senate” shirt. He says he hasn’t decided which Democratic presidential candidate he'll support, but he appreciates what O’Rourke stands for. But also, like many Texas voters, he wishes O’Rourke were running for Senate. He wants to see Sen. John Cornyn unseated and believes O’Rourke might be the candidate to accomplish that.
O'Rourke's Rally Against Fear offered a stark alternative to the gathering for President Donald Trump over at American Airlines Center in Dallas, which featured Cornyn and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in attendance.
During his roughly half-hour speech, O’Rourke returned repeatedly to the evening’s theme of fighting fear. Instead, he called for unity and strength. He highlighted a long history of immigrants contributing to the United States and spoke of a need to do the right thing, regardless of the political consequences.
“[T]his country was not built on fear. No, this country was built on courage, on an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand. That is the America that I see here tonight. Unbeatable. I see a fearless America,” he said. “Texas are you ready? Let’s get after it and let’s get it done!”