“Walls do not save lives. Walls end lives.”
Beto O’Rourke held a rally at the US-Mexico border Monday night in which he protested President Donald Trump’s border policy and warned that walls kill people.
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Though no longer in public office or yet an official presidential candidate, O’Rourke delivered a 20-minute campaign-style speech at an outdoor baseball diamond in his native El, Paso, Texas. As he spoke, Trump loomed behind him on a giant big screen, which had been set up outside the president’s competing rally across the street.
“Walls do not save lives. Walls end lives,” O’Rourke told his cheering crowd. “We are making a stance for the truth, against lies, against hate, against ignorance, against intolerance.”
Beto supporters, estimated by El Paso police to number 10,000 to 15,000, repeatedly broke out in chants of “Beto, Beto, Beto” and “Beto 2020.”
O’Rourke criticized Trump’s hardline policies and rhetoric on immigration. He also suggested that the president did not have the authority to declare a national emergency to build his wall, as he has threatened to do.
“We stand for the constitution of the United States of America and against emergency national security declarations that would allow the president to subvert an equal branch of government and build a wall when we do not need it,” he said.
WATCH: Beto Gets Upstaged by Trump While He’s in the Middle of ‘Walls Kill People’ Speech
Speaking in English and Spanish, O’Rourke called for immigrants to be welcomed with “open arms.” He said America should allow in asylum seekers and allow childhood immigrants, known as “the Dreamers,” to become US citizens.
O’Rourke touted El Paso as a symbol of immigrant success, saying, “El Paso has been one of the safest countries in America not in spite of immigrants but because we are a city of immigrants.”
He seemed to be rebutting Trump’s claim during the State of the Union address Tuesday that border barriers had slashed El Paso’s crime rate. The city’s international border has been protected by fencing since 2009, though its role in falling local crime rates is unclear. Construction of a section of border wall has been ongoing in the city for several months.
Liberals and major media outlets hailed O’Rourke’s speech as step toward making his apparent presidential ambitions official. He recently told Oprah Winfrey that he would announced whether he was running by the end of the month.
Beto O'Rourke: El Paso "safe not because of walls, but in spite of walls." ??pic.twitter.com/mTfgWH7qm0
— Brian Tyler Cohen (@briantylercohen) February 12, 2019
O’Rourke’s criticism of the wall echoed those who have blamed Trump for forcing asylum seekers to crowd along the Mexican side of the border as they wait to have their applications processed.
Meanwhile, conservatives online mocked O’Rourke’s warnings about walls as hysterical, saying that if barriers were so deadly maybe he shouldn’t be speaking in front of towering ball-field fences.
Others joked that Trump was trolling O’Rourke on the big screen.
The Trump campaign played Trump's rally on the big screen behind Beto O'Rourke as O'Rourke gave his speech
In this clip, you can see Trump coming out on stage to give his speech pic.twitter.com/9Nyb2VP2Hj
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) February 12, 2019
Donald Trump Jr. opened his father’s rally at the El Paso County Coliseum by joining in the O’Rourke mockery. He was flanked by two huge signs reading “Finish the wall.”
“If you were at the 50-person Beto rally down the road, and you chanted that … If you chanted ‘USA’ at that rally, I don’t know what would happen. It wouldn’t be good,” he said.
“I would have been more impressed if he had that rally on the Juarez side” of the border.
The president gave a little more credit to O’Rourke – estimating the Democrat’s crowd size at up to 300 people compared to his own 35,000, both apparently exaggerated – but he was still ruthless.
What I would do is I would say that may be the end of his presidential bid,” Donald Trump said.
Elsewhere in his speech, Trump dismissed O’Rourke as “a young man who’s got very little going for himself except a great first name,” and called him out for losing his Senate bid against Republican Ted Cruz in the 2018 midterm, which still managed to turn him into a social media celebrity and Democratic darling.
“You’re supposed to win in order to run,” Trump said.
At one point, the president referenced news that lawmakers had reached a tentative agreement on border security that would prevent another government shutdown. He assured supporters: “Just so you know, we’re building the wall anyway.”
WATCH: The Full Speech Here