Trump Plans Rally in Waco 30 Years After Branch Davidian Standoff

March 24, 2023

Branch Davidian Compound, April 19, 1993

Former President Trump is set to hold the first major campaign rally of his 2024 reelection bid in Waco, Texas on Saturday—30 years after the ultimately deadly federal standoff at the Branch Davidian cult compound.

In 1993, federal agents seeking to arrest cult leader David Koresh surrounded the compound in an armed standoff that would last more than a month, from February 28 to April 19. The siege ended in the deaths of 76 people, including 25 children.

The Waco siege has long been linked to anti-government conspiracy theories. For example, Timothy McVeigh, who was executed in 2001 for the April 19, 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, was famously driven to his act of terrorism over his personal fury against the government for its actions at Waco.

On Thursday, the Houston Chronicle lambasted Trump for choosing Waco as the site of his first major 2024 campaign rally. In an editorial, the paper said that choosing the location was not just a dog-whistle to extremists, but a “blaring air horn of a Mack 18-wheeler.”

The Chronicle went on to say Trump’s choosing the site amid the 30-year mark of the standoff is no coincidence, adding, “Militia members and conspiracists know exactly what Trump’s Waco visit symbolizes.”

The rally also comes as Trump awaits his fate in four separate criminal cases. A grand jury is weighing whether to recommend charges in the Manhattan District Attorney’s investigation into his 2016 campaign hush money payoff to Stormy Daniels. In Georgia another grand jury is investigating his behavior into attempts to overturn the 2020 election, as is the federal government, while another federal grand jury was set to hear testimony Friday from Trump’s primary defense attorney in the investigation into his mishandling of classified documents.

Amid these investigations, Trump has escalated the rhetoric on his Truth Social site, warning overnight Thursday that there would be “potential death and destruction” if he is charged in the hush money case, whose grand jury appears to be closest to wrapping.

His Truth Social posting and in his choice of Waco follow other incidents where Trump fed fury on the far-right, including his non-response to the deadly 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia as well as his call to the extremist Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” ahead of the deadly January 6, 2021 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol—right before which Trump had told his supporters in the crowd on the National Mall, “If you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

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