The alleged graffiti
In February of this year, Brownsville Police Department agents shoved their way into Rebekah Hinojosa’s private residence as she asked for identification and a warrant from the officers.
“I’ll get the warrant, don’t worry about it,” said an officer as he forced the door against Hinojosa to make his way in, according to body cam footage obtained by Texas Public Radio.
Hinojosa was charged with a Class B Misdemeanor after the words “Gentrified, Stop SpaceX” were found graffitied on a mural in Brownsville funded by The Musk Foundation, a philanthropic organization funded by Elon Musk.
She spent the next 26 hours in the city jail for allegedly vandalizing the mural.
Hinojosa, a longtime organizer with the Rio Grande Valley’s local Sierra Club chapter and Another Gulf is Possible, has been involved in environmental advocacy critical of the SpaceX operations in the region.
From a recent Inside Climate News article:
Hinojosa has great, great, great grandparents buried near the Rio Grande. For all her life she’d been aware of environmental injustice in the Valley. Her grandfather worked at a local pesticide plant where she said workers were doused in chemicals; many died of cancer.
“There’s a history here of big companies coming in and exploiting our community, coming in with the same broken promises of job and money. In reality they just come in to pollute and use our people as cheap labor,” said Hinojosa, 31, Gulf Coast representative for the Sierra Club since 2016.
She soon became part of a burgeoning movement, connecting local activists and Indigenous communities with outside supporters like the Sierra Club.
Brownsville Mayor “doxes” Hinojosa
Despite environmental concerns, SpaceX and Elon Musk have received the full support of city and county leadership in establishing Starbase on Boca Chica Beach in the region.
This has included the enthusiastic endorsement of Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez.
Soon after Hinojosa’s arrest, Mendez took to social media to “dox”, or personally identify, Hinojosa by name. The mayor went as far as including her place of employment and her involvement with the Sierra Club.
“Ms. Hinojosa has been quoted in several anti SpaceX articles,” said Mendez in the Facebook post.
Over the past two years, Elon Musk has gifted $30 Million dollars to the region through the Musk foundation, with about a third of that amount going directly to the city of Brownsville.
In February, Rio Grande Valley advocates for Hinojosa’s freedom protested at the Musk-funded mural in Brownsville against the charges Hinojosa faced.
In the video below, recorded by Texas Public Radio journalist Gaige Davila who originally obtained the police body cam footage, a local driver honks in solidarity with the protestors.
The mural, as well as the SpaceX project at Boca Chica Beach itself, have long been divisive topics in the city.
A Twitter revival of the petition to drop the charges
Now an online petition that seeks to clear Hinojosa of the charges and launch an investigation of Mendez for possible violations of civil rights is seeing a revival on Twitter this week.
This comes after rumors of the platform’s demise arose when hundreds of Twitter employees resigned en masse on Wednesday in response to an ultimatum from the same man responsible for the Brownsville mural–Elon Musk.
The online petition contains more details about the incident.
From the online action:
Immediately after her release, and, apparently in coordination with city jail officials, the Mayor of Brownsville, Trey Mendez singled out and publicly attacked Hinojosa by publishing her photo from the Brownsville Police Department, in a post on his official Facebook page, setting her up for criticism and potential harm from his constituents.
He also included the name of Hinojosa’s employer in an attempt to harm her ability to make a living.
Mayor Mendez abused his official authority and subjected Hinojosa to a violent arrest because she is outspoken about the destructive impacts that SpaceX has on our environment and community.
This is clear retaliation, violating Rebekah’s 1st Amendment protected conduct to challenge the environmental impact of SpaceX. Mayor Mendez is violating federal law.
The online petition adds the signer’s name to a letter addressed to the city of Brownsville.
With a conviction, a Class B Misdemeanor can result in up to 180 days of jail time in the State of Texas.