QAnon forces shut-down of butterfly center amid sex trafficking claims

A Republican congressional candidate, MAGA supporters and QAnon conspiracists blamed a butterfly center for trafficking sex workers across the border with Mexico.

A US border patrol agent looks over the Rio Grande river at the border between United States and Mexico, in Roma, Texas, US, May 11, 2017 (photo credit: REUTERS)
A US border patrol agent looks over the Rio Grande river at the border between United States and Mexico, in Roma, Texas, US, May 11, 2017
(photo credit: REUTERS)

The US National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas shut down for the weekend due to fears that the Center will be attacked by participants in a nearby MAGA rally, the Center announced on its website this week. 

The Center, located minutes away from the Rio-Grande River that separates between the US and Mexico, is at the heart of a QAnon-style conspiracy that its land is being used for sex trafficking. The site's manager, Marianna Wright, was being extra vigilant after a congressional candidate from Virginia and someone posing as a Secret Service agent visited the site on January 21 and demanded to see the illegal smuggling, the website explained.

The Center laid out the chain of events in a letter made out to its members, donors and supporters.

"We are writing to let you know the National Butterfly Center will be closed Friday, Jan. 28 - Sunday, Jan. 30, due to credible threats we have received from a former state official, regarding activities planned by the We Stand America event, taking place in McAllen, TX, this weekend," the letter begins.

The MAGA mid-term election rally, hosted by Trump's former National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. (ret.) Michael Flynn, is the national kick-off event for what participants are calling their "Take Action Tour," it explains.

Jacob Chansley, also known as Jake Angeli, holding a sign referencing QAnon, speaks as supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather to protest about the early results of the 2020 presidential election (credit: CHENEY ORR/REUTERS)Jacob Chansley, also known as Jake Angeli, holding a sign referencing QAnon, speaks as supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather to protest about the early results of the 2020 presidential election (credit: CHENEY ORR/REUTERS)

"We were alerted to this event on Friday, Jan. 21, following a visit by a congressional candidate from Virginia. She appeared with a friend, who claimed to be a Secret Service agent, and demanded access to the river so they could 'see the rafts with the illegal crossing' our property."

"When asked to leave, they attempted to film Marianna [Wright], while reiterating the malicious and defamatory lies of Steve Bannon and Brian Kolfage, whose concerted, public attacks against the North American Butterfly Association, the National Butterfly Center, and our director, Marianna, remain the subject of the lawsuit we have brought against their 'dark money' fundraising organization, We Build the Wall," the letter explained.    

Kolfage, a veteran of the United States Air Force who lost both legs while stationed in Iraq in 2004, is the leader of the fundraising campaign, which is building a private barrier wall on the US-Mexico border. He is a leader of the butterfly center conspiracy theory, accusing it of running a sham sanctuary in order to profit from human trafficking. He has shared doctored photos of rafts at a dock on the Center's territory and has written violent threats to Wright over Twitter. He was indicted for diverting money from the campaign to personal uses.

"We made the difficult decision to close the center when Marianna was advised by the former state official (whose daughter is the Hidalgo County GOP chairperson) that she should be armed at all times or out of town this weekend, because the We Stand America events include a 'Trump Train'-style, 'caravan to the border.'  He said the National Butterfly Center would likely be a stop on this 'take action tour,' and she and the center are targets," the letter continues.

"We simply cannot risk the safety and lives of our staff and visitors during this dangerous time," the letter says. It then adds a comment about the state of the country.

"We still cannot believe we are at the center of this maelstrom of malevolence rising in the United States."

"As always, we ask that you SHARE OUR STORY [capitalized in source]. Usually, we want you to share the NBC, beautiful butterfly photos, exceptional finds, the Texas Butterfly Festival and other special events.

"But right now, we need people to understand what is happening; not just to us, but to the country."  

"We appreciate your continued support, and appreciate any assistance you may be able to provide at this time," the letter concludes.