“Dozens” of protesters stormed and occupied the National Border Patrol Museum in Texas over the weekend, vandalizing the building’s displays, including a wall honoring fallen Customs and Border Protection Officers.
Around 50 protesters, “donning masks to conceal their identity,” overtook the El Paso, Texas, facility on Saturday, leaving destruction in their wake, Fox News reports.
The director of the museum described the incident as an “invasion.”
“They immediately spread out throughout the museum, and displayed banners and began chanting and singing,” the site’s director, David Ham, told the national news outlet on Monday. “While this was going on, other people in masks went through the museum placing stickers on most of our exhibits. These people were wearing masks, and their actions were concealed by others holding small signs to cover their actions.”
Ham was not at the museum at the time, according to the Washington Examiner,but received panic phone calls from “upset” staff members.
“We have cameras, and we saw them gathering in the parking lot,” Ham told the outlet. “We saw them come in the museum, and she had called 911. I was able to watch the cameras on my cellphone. They came in after putting masks on.”
“They proceeded to set up a bunch of signs and just went all over the museum. They of course had an agenda, they were chanting and singing songs, and then a couple of them got on a bullhorn,” Ham said. “We had visitors in the museum. They started talking and kind of harassing them. Of course the staff was asking them to leave, and they wouldn’t leave.”
The protesters’ top targets included a wall honoring CBP officers who fell in the line of duty, though the Washington Examiner reports the group “plastered dozens of images on pictures, glass, painted walls, mannequins, and vehicles throughout the building.”
Yesterday, masked protestors “occupied & reclaimed” (whatever that means) the #BorderPatrol museum (non-profit entity run by volunteers) & defaced our fallen agent memorial (a very sacred monument).
I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about the hypocrisy of their actions…🙄 pic.twitter.com/VUmMmwAIqO
— Jason Owens, Chief Patrol Agent (@JOwensUSBP) February 17, 2019
Over photos of fallen agents, the protesters pasted photos of three children, two of whom died late last year while in Border Patrol custody of illnesses apparently contracted on their trip to the United States border from their homes in Guatemala and Honduras.
In some cases, museum officials said, the protesters may have done permanent damage to the exhibits, which include antique cars and vintage uniforms.
A group called “Tornillo: The Occupation” took credit for the “invasion” on Facebook, and posted several videos of themselves “reclaiming” the Border Patrol museum.
After authorities broke up the “occupation” the group posted an account of their “harrowing” experience.
The museum says that it does not respond kindly to vandals, and that once it finishes assessing the damage the protesters did to displays and exhibits, it plans on pressing charges.