AUSTIN, Texas — Former President Donald Trump will descend on the rural town of Waco for what his campaign has billed as its first major 2024 rally, but the timing and location have drawn extreme concern about what they symbolize.
Trump’s kickoff rally in the Central Texas city Saturday evening appears to be his first despite hundreds of visits to cities nationwide since 2015.
But the weekend event falls on the 30-year anniversary of the Waco massacre, a botched attempt by federal agents to serve a warrant to a cult leader who was believed to have stockpiled military-grade weapons at the religious group’s compound outside city limits.
In a 51-day stand-off in the spring of 1993, FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives agents battled residents inside the Branch Davidian complex for control of the property from its leader, David Koresh, in what has become one of the nation’s most infamous citizen showdowns against the government. In total, four federal agents and 82 Branch Davidians, including 28 children, died in the incident.
Dr. Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Alabama-based Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, said the Waco siege remains “hugely significant” to the far Right because it showed the federal government’s mission against them.
White supremacists and militia activists still view Waco as “proof that the government—now usually called the Deep State—is out to get them,” Beirich wrote in an email.
Despite being the former commander in chief, Trump now faces his own battle against the government, including a potential indictment next week over his handling of payments to silence a woman who alleged an affair with the married Trump. He could become the first president in U.S. history to be criminally indicted.
In light of that timing, the Houston Chronicle editorial board said Trump’s visit to Waco was not so much dog-whistle politics, or an attempt at “conveying a subtle message for those with ears to hear while maintaining plausible deniability,” as it was the “blaring air horn of a Mack 18-wheeler barreling down I-10.”
“He is definitely painting himself as a victim of government or deep state shenanigans and aligning himself in victimhood with Koresh,” Beirich said. “This allows Trump to build on his narrative that a possible imminent arrest and the various investigations into him are somehow not warranted. Just a plot to take him out of running for the presidency again or to tarnish his reputation.”
Trump’s campaign spokesman didn’t mention the symbolism of the anti-government landmark but said Waco was the “ideal location” because of its proximity to Texas’s major metropolitan areas and its infrastructure to host “a rally of this magnitude.”
“President Trump is holding his first campaign rally in Waco in the Super Tuesday state of Texas because it is centrally located,” spokesman Steven Cheung said, in part, in an email.
George Conway, a Republican strategist once married to Trump’s former White House senior adviser, said Trump was “absolutely trying to gin up the extremists.”
Conway told MSNBC that Trump’s unspoken message in going to Waco was that “basically the real criminals are the prosecutors” in Manhattan who hold his fate in their hands.
Whether Saturday’s event will have actual consequences is to be seen. Beirich was not as concerned about violence at the rally given that Trump’s base had not been very active in protesting his potential arrest despite his calls to take action. Beirich’s top concern was of a “lone actor” taking matters into his or her own hands.
Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, took to Twitter late Thursday with a call for people to register for the rally in an effort to render the airport hangar empty during the actual event because tickets have gone to no-shows.
“Donald has a rally in Waco this Saturday. It’s a ploy to remind his cult of the infamous Waco siege of 1993, where an anti-government cult battled the FBI. Scores of people died. He wants the same violent chaos to rescue him from justice,” the younger Trump wrote in a post. “If we book the 50,000+ venue, we can make sure most of the seats are empty when the traitor takes the stage.”
Source : Washington Examiner