There’s an update on the situation at the National Butterfly Center in Mission Texas. As reported previously, they had closed for the weekend fearing violence from right wing extremist Trump supporters. Located near the border, the center has been the target of conspiracy theories claiming it is involved in child sex trafficking and immigrant smuggling.
The center closed as a precaution, ahead of a We Stand America event taking place in McAllen, TX. They had already been subjected to harassment in a confrontation with MAGA candidate Kimberly Lowe. The Center had been warned that deadly violence might result from rally attendees.
Matt Shuham at Talking Points Memo has an update:
The National Butterfly Center, a target for right-wing conspiracy theories situated along the U.S.-Mexico border, is shutting down for the “immediate future” after a fringe border wall rally brought a weekend of unwanted attention to the wildlife sanctuary.
“There’s just been an awful lot of right-wing hate being spewed by individuals and groups making videos and posting it online, creating a dangerous situation,” Jeffrey Glassberg, the president and founder of the North American Butterfly Association, told TPM over the phone Wednesday.
“That’s the kind of stuff that happened before other horrible events that we all know about. You learn from the last couple of years that these things are very serious. People die.”
Warnings that the Center would be the subject of attention from rally attendees seem to have been borne out:
Over the weekend, multiple right-wingers — including the congressional candidate Lynz Piper-Loomis and the “Real America’s Voice” correspondent Ben Bergquam — filmed videos on the edge of the Butterfly Center’s property, making light of the Butterfly Center’s concerns while posing with a child’s shoes and implying that the center was a stop for human traffickers.
“Why are you more concerned about butterflies than you are the little children that are being trafficked right behind this center?” Christie Hutcherson, one of the We Stand America event organizers, said in Piper-Loomis’ video.
Treviño Wright, the executive director of the Butterfly Center, has noted that the August 2019 mass shooting at a WalMart in El Paso, Texas, took place just a few days after an event nearby featuring Donald Trump Jr. and others. That event was hosted by the group “We Build The Wall,” the private border wall building effort whose leaders were subsequently charged federally for allegedly misleading donors.
The Center has been targeted with CT disinformation because of their opposition to construction of the wall.
The National Butterfly Center filed a lawsuit in 2017 after the Trump administration allegedly began construction of a wall, using chainsaws to destroy trees and other plant life, on center-owned property without permission. The 100-acre property is home to lush gardens and endangered plant life, as well as numerous nature trails that are the natural habitats of the more than 200 species of butterflies that live there.
The response from the people behind We Build the Wall was to spread vicious allegations:
[Brian] Kolfage baselessly said in November 2019 that the center was involved in human trafficking, after local officials and others had raised concerns about the ecological impact of building a border wall near the center's 100-acres of land.
The butterfly center sued Kolfage, We Build the Wall, and associated construction companies in December 2019 — specifically alleging Kolfage's harassment campaign defamed the center.
Since then, the center has been visited by individuals associated with far-right extremist groups like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, and has been targeted by conspiracy theorists, My Rio Grande Valley News reported.
The Center plans to remain closed:
“These people are basically insane, like Pizzagate,” Glassberg said. “People were trafficking babies at this pizza parlor? How any sane human being can possibly believe this stuff is beyond belief. You have to be literally insane, and clearly they are.”
The NABA founder said the dozen employees at the Butterfly Centers would continue to be paid during the shutdown, and that the center would reopen after NABA could ensure staff and visitors’ safety.
When NABA will be able to ensure staff and visitor safety is an open question — one that is increasingly a problem for everyone as right wing extremism continues to be a problem America appears unable to solve.
Update: Charlie Pierce at Esquire has picked up the story on the Center from NPR. Among things he had to say is this:
Today’s AccuStupid Forecast for Texas: heavy stupid. From NPR:
The National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, has announced that it's closing its doors "for the immediate future" after ongoing harassment directed at employees and the center itself. The center, a nonprofit nature reserve nestled near the U.S.-Mexico border, unwittingly became the subject of conservative conspiracy theories and political conflict in recent years, having been locked in a years-long legal battle with the Trump administration and We Build the Wallregarding a planned border wall.
C’mon, people. Butterflies? The Butterfly Center has been locked in a legal battle because some fanatics dedicated to Steve Bannon’s grift concerning the big, stupid wall allegedly started clearing the NBC’s land to build the big, stupid wall without anything resembling legal permission...
More at the link (warning — paywall), including acrimony over chickens…. As Pierce says:
This is your democracy, America. Cherish it.