'Considerable Threats' Caused by QAnon Sex Trafficking Conspiracy Close Butterfly Center

The National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, announced Thursday that it will be closed until next week "due to credible threats" against its employees.

Those threats, according to an email announcing the temporary closing, came after a QAnon conspiracy theory was spread that claims the butterfly sanctuary is being used for sex trafficking.

The email claimed a former state official informed them of threats against the center and its staff in relation to activities that are planned by a "We Stand America" event. The threats also come after a violent incident described by the sanctuary that involved a congressional candidate allegedly trying to illegally enter the premises and allegedly almost hitting the son of the executive director with her car.

National Butterfly Center
The the National Butterfly Center in Texas is closed for the weekend after its director said she has received threats related to a QAnon conspiracy. In this photo, the entrance to the National Butterfly Center is seen on January 15, 2019, in Mission, Texas. SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP via Getty Images

That event in McAllen, Texas, is a "MAGA, mid-term election rally" that is scheduled to be hosted by Michael Flynn, a former national security advisor under former President Donald Trump. Other figures who have been associated with QAnon are also set to appear.

Marianna Trevino-Wright, executive director of the National Butterfly Center, said a congressional candidate from Virginia came to the center with a person who claimed to be a Secret Service agent. The two visitors demanded access to the river so they could "see the rafts with the illegal crossing" onto the property, the sanctuary's email statement said.

The incident was described in the email, but it did not name the candidate. However, Newsweek reviewed affidavits from Trevino-Wright and her son that identified the candidate as Kimberly Lowe, who is running for the Republican nomination for the 9th Congressional District of Virginia.

The center's email said one of the two people who were trespassing shoved Trevino-Wright to the ground and took her cellphone. Her son went to close the center's gate, which led to the congressional candidate nearly hitting him with her vehicle while she accelerated toward the gate, according to the email.

Newsweek also reviewed a since-deleted Facebook Live video from Lowe's account that documented her trip to the sanctuary. An altercation between the two can be heard, though Lowe claimed it was her phone that was taken from her.

Trevino-Wright also provided Newsweek with an audio recording that she said was of the incident. In it, she can be heard telling someone they are trespassing, and an argument ensues over a phone being taken away from someone.

In an email statement to Newsweek, Lowe said Trevino-Wright "verbally and physically assaulted us, stole my phone, kidnapped us, and tried to keep us from leaving."

Trevino-Wright "filed a false police report which the police have already found to be untrue, and when she couldn't get me on anything because this is purely a political attack she is now making up more stories saying I tried to hit her son when he ran to the gate to lock us in and blocked the exit with his arms out," Lowe wrote. "I did not try to hit him!"

Lowe further stated she went to the center to "learn what is happening at the border with my own eyes from many different perspectives. I'm here because I care about people, and I care about this country. I care wholeheartedly for people and do not want to bring charges against this woman which I could easily do. I called today to get a copy of the investigator's report, but he has not returned my call."

The center, which is located on the Rio Grande near the U.S.-Mexico border, has been targeted by the QAnon community since Trump's time in office. The center drew the attention of pro-Trump groups because the former president's plans for a border wall would have had the wall built right through the sanctuary's property. In 2020, a federal appeals court in Texas sided with the sanctuary, ruling that the border plan violated the center's property rights.

The refusal to allow for the border wall has caused some to speculate that is why the center has been attacked online by QAnon, which has spread a conspiracy theory that inflatable rafts are smuggling illegal immigrants through the butterfly sanctuary for a sex trafficking network. A doctored photo has even circulated online that shows a boat dock at the center bringing in people from a raft.

The email from the sanctuary said Trevino-Wright was advised by a former state official to "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' and that the National Butterfly Center would likely be a stop on this 'take action tour.'"