Feb 2 (Reuters) – A Texas butterfly sanctuary on the Mexican border has closed to the public indefinitely following escalating threats from supporters of former President Donald Trump who are promoting a fabricated claim the sanctuary is part of sex-trafficking ring.
The National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, announced on Wednesday it will remain closed “for the immediate future,” citing concerns for the safety of staff and visitors from the “disruption caused by false and defamatory attacks directed by political operatives.”
The indefinite closure follows a three-day shutdown last weekend that coincided with a meeting in neighboring McAllen of border security advocates that attracted Trump supporters including former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was pardoned by Trump in his final days in office.
“We look forward to reopening, soon, when the authorities and professionals who are helping us navigate this situation give us the green light,” Jeffrey Glassberg, president and founder of the North American Butterfly Association, said in the statement.
The butterfly center made itself an enemy of Trump supporters by filing a lawsuit in 2017 against his plan to build a border wall that would infringe on its property, saying the wall would harm wildlife and cut off two-thirds of the 100-acre (40-hectare) nature preserve, “effectively destroying it.”
Executive Director Marianna Trevino-Wright has told reporters that conspiracy theorists have descended on the center in recent days, inducing two women who demanded access to off-limits areas of the nature preserve so they could see “illegals crossing on rafts.”
Trevino-Wright provided audio of the encounter in which one woman accused the butterfly center of acquiescing to children being raped and another claimed to be with the U.S. Secret Service.
A scuffle ensued in which there seemed to be a physical contact and tussle over someone grabbing a cell phone.
Others have targeted the center with social media attacks including a meme alleging the center built a dock on the northern bank of the Rio Grande in order to aid smugglers. (Reporting by Daniel Trotta)