Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Democratic leaders and immigration advocates said they're holding a rally to protest President Donald Trump's characterization of crime in El Paso, Texas, at the same time Trump is scheduled to speak in the border city Monday.
More than 40 community organizations in El Paso organized the March for Truth Rally in direct response to Trump's visit and comments he made about crime in the city during his State of the Union address earlier this month.
"The border city of El Paso, Texas, used to have extremely high rates of violent crime -- one of the highest in the entire country, and considered one of our nation's most dangerous cities," Trump said Tuesday. "Now, immediately upon its building, with a powerful barrier in place, El Paso is one of the safest cities in our country."
But former Rep. Beto O'Rourke -- and other local leaders -- said the West Texas city was safe before the wall. In fact, he told reporters in a press call Monday afternoon, there was a slight increase in crime after the construction of the fence.
O'Rourke and other community leaders accused Trump of using El Paso as a "prop to make his case for a border wall."
"Our safety is a result of treating one another with respect and dignity," he said.
Rep. Veronica Escobar, who was elected to replace O'Rourke in Texas' 16th Congressional District, cited the city's emphasis on community policing for increasing safety.
"The rest of the country could really stand to learn a lesson from the way the El Paso community engages with people," she said.
"This misinformation is personal. It is an attack on our family. It is an attack on our identity and we won't stand for it."
Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights, one of the organizers of the rally, said he expects conservatively there will be between 6,000 and 9,000 people attending the counterprotest.
Linda Rivas with Women's March El Paso, another involved group, said the organizers have worked with El Paso police and volunteer security members to ensure safety at the event.
"We are asking people to not engage," with potential confrontation, she said.
Garcia said he would like for El Paso to be a symbol of immigration much the same way Ellis Island is for European immigrants.
"They are coming with the same hopes and aspirations that the families from Europe came centuries ago," he said referring to Central American migrants seeking to emigrate to the United States. "We are in the midst of defining what the character of America will be in the coming years."
Monday's counterprotest will start at 5 p.m. near Bowie High School and will culminate at the Chalio Acosta Park, where O'Rourke plans to make remarks. He said he will make any announcements about potential presidential ambitions at the rally.
Trump's rally is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at the El Paso County Coliseum, about half a mile away from the counterprotest.