April 25, 2019 / 7:42 PM / 25 days ago

New Mexico armed border group barred from Facebook fund-raising

TAOS, N.M. (Reuters) - Facebook Inc on Thursday barred a New Mexico-based paramilitary group that has stopped undocumented migrants near the U.S.-Mexico border from using its fundraising tools and said it would remove any of its posts that violated company policies.

Facebook made the statement after a civil rights organization asked it to block videos posted by the United Constitutional Patriots (UCP), saying the clips violated its standards, which prohibit images showing criminal acts.

“People cannot use our fundraising tools for activities involving weapons,” said a Facebook spokesperson in a statement. “We will remove fundraisers this group may try to start on our service and any content that violates our Community Standards.”

Since February, the UCP have posted a string of videos showing members armed with semi-automatic rifles halting migrants in New Mexico and telling them to sit and wait for U.S. Border Patrol to arrest them.

The UCP says the videos demonstrate its work helping Border Patrol detain some 5,600 migrants in just 60 days during a surge in illegal crossings. Civil rights groups accuse the group of illegally detaining asylum seekers.

“These videos include content showing possible assault, kidnapping and false imprisonment,” the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said in a statement on Thursday asking Facebook to remove them.

UCP spokesman Jim Benvie did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a Facebook Live post on Tuesday he described the group’s videos as “citizen journalism” showing reality on the border.

“There is a crisis at the border, we are being invaded,” Benvie said. Facebook’s Community Standards bar users from publicizing crime, using hate speech or presenting arguments for restricting immigration policy, among other things, the spokesperson said.

PayPal and GoFundMe on Friday barred the UCP, citing policies that prohibit the promotion of hate or violence.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham last week called for an investigation of the group.

The FBI arrested the UCP’s commander, Larry Hopkins, on Saturday on federal weapons charges dating back to 2017.

Hopkins was assaulted in a New Mexico jail on Monday and hospitalized with broken ribs.

The UCP left its campsite on Tuesday after Union Pacific Railroad accused it of trespassing, but Benvie said it would soon relocate to a nearby spot along the border.

“We’re not going to quit fighting, we’re not going to quit reporting,” he said.

Reporting By Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Frank McGurty and Susan Thomas

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