Texas protesters accused of defacing memorials of fallen border agents

Stickers of immigrant children where stuck on exhibits, including a memorial plaque with photos of fallen agents


Daniel Borunda
El Paso Times, Texas

EL PASO, Texas — A weekend protest sparked the ire of U.S. Border Patrol supporters after accusations that a memorial to fallen agents was defaced at the National Border Patrol Museum in El Paso.

About two dozen protesters — some with bandannas covering their faces — held banners, sang and chanted in a take-over-style demonstration Saturday afternoon inside the museum on Trans Mountain Road.

The museum is not a part of the Border Patrol. The museum, which has free admission, is run on donations and by volunteers.

Stickers of photos of the Guatemalan girl Jakelin Caal Maquin and other immigrant children who died in U.S. custody were stuck on exhibits, including a memorial plaque with the photos of fallen agents.

"We feel this act was a disgrace, and the protest is misplaced against the men and women of the Border Patrol," said Carlos Favela, spokesman and executive vice president of the National Border Patrol Council Local 1929, the agents' union in El Paso.

Protesters crossed the line when they defaced exhibits and the memorial to fallen agents and should be prosecuted, Favela said.

Border Patrol concerns about overcrowding "got a deaf ear from Congress" until the children's deaths, Favela said. "All this is being blamed on the agents, who are dealing with this to the best of their ability," he said.

The demonstration by an activist group called "Tornillo: The Occupation" was part of a series of protests dubbed the "Weekend of Revolutionary Love."

The group's final scheduled demonstration took place Monday afternoon at San Jacinto Plaza in Downtown.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 21th 2019 PRESS RELEASE Media Contact: tornillotheoccupation@gmail.com Statement from Tornillo: the Occupation on the Action at the National Border Patrol Museum The action at the Border Patrol Museum was a collaboration between local El Paso residents and activists from around the country. Recognizing the interlocking nature of all our struggles, we staged an intervention to uplift and remember both the experiences of migrant families and the many lives that have been lost. Since its inception in 1924 the United States Border Patrol has expanded a colonial system that inflicts violence and death along its constructed border. We believe that the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement should be held accountable for their human rights violations. We believe all migrants deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. We assert the only crisis on the border is the experiences of vulnerable migrant and undocumented populations bearing the weight of U.S. immigration and foreign policy and Indigenous peoples who have been terrorized and harassed by Customs and Border Patrol on Tribal lands. We stand behind all migrant indigenous families exercising their ancestral claim to migration across Turtle Island also known as the Americas. We took action because the museum and spaces like it exhibit a one-sided perspective of what is happening on the border. Nowhere in the museum would you find the problematic reality of the Border Patrol and its history of oppressive treatment towards indigenous peoples of this land, asylum seekers, and migrants. Our presence in the space was to center the voices that were missing from this memorial and the human rights violations inflicted upon them: Jakelin Caal Maquin, Felipe Gomez Alonzo, Claudia Patricia Gomez González, and the more than 100 others who have died as consequences of Border Patrol violence. They died in Border Patrol spaces, they deserve to be remembered in Border Patrol spaces. We are in a crisis of the consciousness of this country; a path towards reconciliation cannot begin unless institutions responsible for telling this country's story take that responsibility seriously and tell its whole truth. We must, as we have historically, fight for the sanctity of black and brown lives. It is irresponsible for any institution to claim to be apolitical while erasing the entire history of a people and using politically charged words, like "illegal alien" in their exhibits. We recognize that an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere—therefore, we will continue to resist state-sanctioned violence that places the lives and memories of law enforcement above those who have died as a result of systems of oppression, whether it be at the U.S. Borders, in Palestine, or in the streets of Ferguson, El Paso, Albuquerque/Tiwa Territory, or Tucson. No one is free until we all are free. For more information contact tornillotheoccupation@gmail.com BREAKING! Direct Action: Reclaiming the border patrol museum and exposing the true violence of borders and border patrol. MISSING HISTORY: The museum shows a small scoped perspective of what is happening on the border. No where in the museum would you ever find the fact that the Border Patrol has been a problematic entity in its treatment of the indigenous people of this land and asylum seekers. Our reclamation of the space was to highlight the voices that were missing from this memorial and the human rights violations inflicted upon them. They died in border patrol spaces, they deserve to be remembered in border patrol spaces. "Pedestrians were run over by agents. Car chases culminated in crashes. Some have drowned, others died after they were pepper-sprayed, stunned with tasers or beaten. But the majority of victims died from bullet wounds, including shots in the back. The bullets were fired not only by agents conducting border enforcement operations, but also those acting in a local law enforcement capacity and by agents off-duty, who’ve shot burglary suspects, intimate partners and friends. They are the largest federal law enforcement agency, with sweeping powers and a reach 100 miles into the interior of the US. But they have a worrying record — a Guardian investigation shows the federal government has paid out millions in compensation after a litany of deaths, abuses and negligence." -https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/may/02/fatal-encounters-97-deaths-point-to-pattern-of-border-agent-violence-across-america?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other -https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/01/border-patrol-violence-us-paid-60m-to-cover-claims-against-the-agency?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other "From 2005 to 2012, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents were arrested 2,170 times for misconduct, such as domestic violence and drunk driving, government inspectors found. CBP, which includes Border Patrol and customs agents, was also the target of 1,187 complaints of excessive force from 2007 to 2012. Since 2004, more than 200 agents have been arrested on corruption-related charges, including at least 13 under Trump. And a 2013 government-commissioned report found that Border Patrol agents regularly stepped in the paths of cars to justify firing at drivers, as well as shooting at rock-throwers, including teenagers on the Mexican side, with the intent to kill." -https://www.texasobserver.org/the-border-patrol-serial-killer-is-part-of-a-long-troubled-history/ "SINCE ITS FOUNDING in the early 20th century, the U.S. Border Patrol has operated with near-complete impunity, arguably serving as the most politicized and abusive branch of federal law enforcement — even more so than the FBI during J. Edgar Hoover’s directorship." -https://theintercept.com/2019/01/12/border-patrol-history/ #RevoLove #FreeThem #Libérenlos #hungerstrike #ELPASO9 #AbolishICE #waterislife #HumanitarianAidIsNeverACrime #liberty4patricia #niunamás #WeDoCare #amorYamistad #ReturnTheChildren #Liberty4Patricia @officialpatriciaOkoumou #pokoumou

Posted by Tornillo: The Occupation on Saturday, February 16, 2019

The group had protested the now-closed Tornillo child immigrant tent detention center and called for "disruptive nonviolent direct action" to highlight "an unjust immigration system."

At the museum, activists held banners stating "No estan olvidados" (You are not forgotten) and chanted “Say it loud, say it clear, Border Patrol kills” and "Up, up with liberation. Down, down with deportation."

The protest was filmed by activists in a video posted on the group's Facebook page.

“We are here at the Border Patrol Museum and what we did: We reclaimed their false narrative and put the truth," a woman said in the video. "Let them know that Border Patrol kills. There shouldn’t be a museum for genocide.”

The protest group stated that military police arrived, blocked the museum parking lot and checked protesters' identification before letting them go.

"Today, a group of protesters invaded the Border Patrol Museum and defaced all of our exhibits, including our sacred Memorial Room," David Ham, whom Channel 7-KVIA identified as the museum board president, posted Saturday on Facebook.

"Efforts to prosecute them will be pursued once damage is assessed," Ham posted. "This angers me greatly."

It was unclear which law enforcement agency would handle any vandalism investigation at the museum.

The protest drew condemnation from Border Patrol supporters across the nation.

Houlton, Maine, Border Patrol Chief Jason Owens in a tweet said that protesters had "defaced our fallen agent memorial (a very sacred monument)."

The museum grounds are the site of an annual memorial service for fallen agents.

Protesters on social media countered that "there is nothing more sacred than lifting up the names of the children that were taken from us."

The museum began in 1985 in the basement of the Cortez Building in Downtown El Paso. The museum opened in 1994 at its current mountainside location in the Northeast.

Museum officials could not be reached for comment Monday, when the museum is closed.

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©2019 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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