From Texas Public Radio:
Rebekah Lynn Hinojosa was home last week when she heard a loud knock on the door. When she got up to answer it, four police officers barged in and arrested her.
She spent the next 26 hours in Brownsville’s city jail. When she was arrested, officers didn’t allow her to properly dress. They took her glasses, and they placed her in a cold cell after she was interrogated. She stayed awake for most of the ordeal.
“I have PTSD from this now, and a lot of emotional distress I’m trying to process, from all of this,” Hinojosa told TPR in a phone call.
Hinojosa, an organizer with the Rio Grande Valley’s local Sierra Club chapter and Another Gulf is Possible, was arrested for a graffiti misdemeanor, a cite-and-release offense.
The graffiti was found on a downtown Brownsville mural, on the side of the Capitol Theater building on 11th and Levee streets. The City of Brownsville commissioned the mural from Los Angeles artist Teddy Kelly, using money donated to the city by the Elon Musk Foundation. The City of Brownsville paid $20,000 of this money to Kelly.
Residents criticized that the money funding the mural was the SpaceX’s CEO’s philanthropic arm and that the city didn’t consider using local artists.
Graffiti appeared under the mural two weeks ago reading, “Gentrified, Stop SpaceX.” Photos of the mural circulated on social media. Soon after, Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez posted on Facebook that Hinojosa had been arrested for the graffiti. The post included her occupation and that she had been quoted in “anti-SpaceX” news articles.
Some commenters on the post accused Mendez of doxing Hinojosa, or publishing private information on a person in an attempt for others to target them. Mendez has since edited the post, removing Hinojosa’s employment information and organizing work against SpaceX. Mendez wrote in the post that police linked the graffiti to Hinojosa through their review of security cameras near the mural.
Her attorney, Mike Siegel, believes Mendez politically retaliated against Hinojosa for speaking out against SpaceX. Her arrest wasn’t necessary at all, he said.
“It seems to be a very specific and targeted enforcement action by the police,” Siegel, who is also Political Director for Ground Game Texas, told TPR.
Siegel is investigating how Hinojosa’s arrest was organized and whether Brownsville PD has sought people for graffiti offenses and arrested them in their homes. TPR has filed a public information request with Brownsville PD on all information related to Hinojosa’s arrest.
According to Texas Penal Code, most graffiti offenses are misdemeanors, depending on how much the “loss,” or removal cost, is.
Brownsville PD charged Hinojosa with a Class B Misdemeanor, meaning the removal cost was between $100-$750. A Class B Misdemeanor charge can end with a $2,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail.