'If I end up in jail, then the work will continue in jail': St. Louis activist prepares for court after border protest

'If I end up in jail, then the work will continue in jail': St. Louis activist prepares for court after border protest

FAIRGROUND PARK – At first glance, you may underestimate just how fearless Elizabeth Vega really is. Standing at about four feet, 11 inches, her short stature coupled with her warm and loving personality could be misleading. 

The smiles on the faces of the people who are eager to hug and greet her as she sits on the steps of her home near Fairground Park would further indicate otherwise.

But make no mistake, Vega, as everyone who knows her calls her, is one of the most prominent activists in St. Louis. 

As Founder of the Art House, a “movement home,” as she calls it, the artivist – someone who practices activism through art – is no stranger to local and national headlines.

Vega became increasingly known for being one of the key protesters during the Ferguson riots in 2014. 

More recently, Vega was thrust into national headlines again in February for participating in a protest at the privately run Border Patrol Museum in El Paso, Texas. 

Vega – along with 16 other people, four of whom are St. Louisans – were arrested for vandalizing the museum.

In a protest, they had plastered postcard-size stickers with the photos of two children who died in 2018 while in Border Patrol custody all over the museum. The entire incident was streamed live on Facebook.

Vega’s actions that day resulted in a felony trespassing charge of causing over $3,000 in damages, which the El Paso Police announced at a news conference in April. 

On Sept. 6, Vega will have to travel back to El Paso for her court date.

“It was a very, very peaceful 15-minute action, and the result of it is that you charge 16 people, 13 of them with felonies for holding up the memories of children who had died,” Vega said.

“I mean, that’s where we’re at in this country. So, yeah, I fully intend to fight it.”

Vega said the peaceful protest was a way to amplify the issue of children dying at the hands of the United States government.

“If you can get charges for putting up images of dead children, what happens to the people who are culpable for those children’s deaths? What happens to the folks who are responsible for the separation of thousands of children from their families?” Vega asked.

The activist said she planned to represent herself in court.

“I’m going to give [them] a run for their money. I’m not going to go gently, and if I end up in jail, then the work will continue in jail.”

But she isn’t going down without a fight. Vega plans to present a 13-page motion to quash, telling the state to drop the charges while outlining the crimes border patrol have committed against humanity.

“My daily prayer and meditation is, whatever I need to surrender, whatever I need to embrace to fulfill my life’s purpose, I willingly do – and that includes my freedom. If I have to surrender my freedom as part of my life’s purpose, I will willingly do that, and I believe that strength will fill me up as I do it,” Vega stated.

“That doesn’t mean it’s not going to suck, [that] it’s not going to be hard,” she added.

Although hopeful that things will work out for the best, Vega has already prepared herself for the worst.

“I don’t really want to go to jail, I’m just being honest about that. But before I do any action like that, I evaluate, ‘Can I do this? Am I willing to do this?’” she said.

“I think it’s at that point where we have to do something. Our very future depends on it. Our soul and the morality of this country depends on people standing up for what is right, standing up for our humanity,” Vega finished. 

Vega will have to travel to El Paso for another appearance in court sometime in October. If convicted, she could face up to one year in prison.