Surrounded by members of her community, activist and educator Ana Tiffany Deveze appeared in court Tuesday, nearly five months after she and scores of other protesters took over the Border Patrol Museum in Northeast El Paso.
Deveze, who is part of an activist coalition known as “Tornillo the Occupation,” plead ‘not guilty’ to charges related to the February action targeting the Border Patrol Museum.
The brief hearing held in a Downtown El Paso courtroom simply had Deveze – flanked by supporters – voice her plea, with the judge then setting the next court date.
Deveze faces misdemeanor charges of trespassing for her participation in the protest.
For their part, the coalition “maintains the allegations made against its members are grossly exaggerated and especially egregious in light of the human rights violations that activists are speaking out against.”
The 15-minute action highlighted the stories of Jakelin Caal Maquin, Felipe Gomez Alonzo, and Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez, three migrant youth who died in Border Patrol custody.
Elizabeth Vega, who faces charges related to the action, spoke to a crowd outside of the courthouse today, stating “there are moments when, as people, we have to take a stand.”
“This is indigenous land – these migration routes have existed long before these borders,” said Christy Velez, who also addressed the small group of supporters following Deveze’s court appearance.
“As an indigenous woman from this region I feel that it is my responsibility and the responsibility of this community to stand up and fight against the state sanctioned violence… We should all be concerned about the fact that protest is being criminalized in a way that is grossly exaggerated, while there is no criticism of those who are killing children and migrants who have a right to these routes.”
Deveze spoke to the crowd, at times holding the hands of her two young children.
The charges that have been levied against me and the other 15 people who have been targeted in connection to the border patrol museum action are yet another part of the crackdown of persecution that has taken hold in the borderlands against those who would be critical of border patrol and CBP. While children are dying and in cages, it’s stickers that law enforcement is concerned about.
For an action that lasted fewer than 15 minutes, police surrounded my old house and tried to arrest the mother who lived there now, believing she was me. My photograph and misdemeanor charge would appear on El Paso’s 10 Most Wanted list, next to people wanted on charges like murder, for two weeks in a row. I turned myself on April 15th and today, I was arraigned and have entered a plea of not guilty. If 15 minutes can land someone with a misdemeanor criminal trespass charge and a spot on El Paso’s Most Wanted, it begs the question: what is the penalty for the human rights violations being committed by ICE and CBP every single day?
As members of this border community, it is our responsibility to witness, document, expose and stand against the human rights abuses and the xenophobic oppressions that continue to plague the frontera lands of El Paso. We have a responsibility to the memory of these lands and to the descendants of the peoples whose lands we live on to fight for the dignity of this revolutionary place of desert and mountain and river that we call home.
I cannot allow my work to be criminalized. I will continue to stand with my community in all efforts to defend human rights; I am not ashamed and I am not afraid.
The protest, which was live streamed on social media, featured members of the groups unfurling large banners and placing stickers on various displays within the museum.
The group’s action drew sharp criticism from some, and words of support from others around the country.
Additional members of the group will appear in court on July 26th to face felony charges of criminal mischief. In total, 16 activists were charged following the action.