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‘Strong’ after shooting, El Paso now vulnerable to virus

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'Strong' after shooting, El Paso now vulnerable to virus

EL PASO, Texas (AP) — Inked on skin and hashtagged on social media, the words “El Paso Strong” united city residents after a mass shooting at a Walmart last year.

As COVID-19 took hold in El Paso, government officials have tried to repurpose the slogan, much like “Don’t mess with Texas,” originally an anti-littering slogan, or “Keep Calm and Carry On,” a little-used WWII poster popularized in the internet age. But “El Paso Strong” hasn’t been embraced by the public in the context of the virus, which is challenging community ties in a region that normally transcends borders.

The region’s top elected official, County Judge Ricardo Samaniego, initially supported tapping “El Paso Strong” to rally residents’ support for social distancing with the same zeal as they helped each other after the Aug. 3 shooting. But Samaniego says it’s hard to tie the shooting and the virus crises together when the city is asking residents to respond to them in opposite ways.

“We were asking people to be united, and then we’re asking them to be individuals, right? We’re going, ‘Stay home, stay at your house,’” Samaniego said.

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In some ways, life during the pandemic is not unlike the first few weeks after the shooting, when many residents were afraid to go out. “It’s really eerie,” says Ricardo Federico, 32, skateboarding with friends to a gas station, one of the few places open on a recent weeknight. “It’s like when the city shut down (in August). Nobody wanted to go to Walmart, nobody wanted to go shopping. Especially because Hispanics like us, we were targets.”

Federal prosecutors have said that Patrick Crusius carried out […]

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