WACO, United States, March 25, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - Donald Trump stages his first
presidential campaign rally Saturday at the site of a deadly 1993 standoff
between an anti-government cult and federal agents as he rails against
multiple criminal probes threatening his bid for the White House.
Waco, Texas -- which is marking the 30th anniversary of the siege -- has
become a touchstone for far-right activists glorying in its history of
resistance against perceived government overreach.
The rally comes amid a torrent of increasingly bellicose statements by Trump
claiming a "witch hunt" by prosecutors he refers to as "human scum" who are
pursuing cases against him in New York, Washington and Atlanta.
The Republican leader is expected to address at least 15,000 supporters as he
braces for possible charges over a hush money payout days before the 2016
election to a porn star alleging a sexual encounter.
The 76-year-old -- who was impeached for inciting an insurrection -- called
last weekend for protests against Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, as
the former president claimed falsely that he was about to be arrested.
- 'Violent chaos' -
Some of those arriving in Waco came from other states, eager to see Trump
returned to the Oval Office, with many wearing MAGA caps or waving flags
touting his campaign.
"We have huge power behind Donald Trump that has yet to be unleashed," said
Kelly Heath, 49, who arrived from Georgia. "You will be shocked."
Trump supporters trickled into the Waco Siege Memorial on Friday to
commemorate the 80 or so people who died in the 1993 standoff at the compound
of the Branch Davidian sect, besieged by federal agents.
"Waco is actually the epicenter of the patriot movement, of the movement to
help America get back to its grassroots... to empower the citizens to have
constitutional rights," said Peter Christian, the pastor's assistant at the
The Houston Chronicle published an op-ed Thursday accusing Trump of hosting
his rally during the 30th anniversary as a "blaring air horn" for the
extremists among his followers.
"It's a ploy to remind his cult of the infamous Waco siege of 1993, where an
anti-government cult battled the FBI," the former president's estranged niece
Mary Trump said on Twitter.
"Scores of people died. He wants the same violent chaos to rescue him from
The psychologist and author announced an effort to limit attendance at her
uncle's rally, urging her 1.6 million Twitter followers to book out the venue
to ensure it would be largely empty "when the traitor takes the stage."
The Trump campaign didn't immediately respond to AFP's request for the
rationale behind choosing Waco at such a sensitive time. But his spokesman
was quoted by US media pointing to the ease of access afforded by Waco's
Trump is believed to be the frontrunner by a considerable margin to be the
Republican nominee in the 2024 presidential election.
The chasing pack, led by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, was initially
reticent in its criticism of the ex-reality TV star, but has recently begun
criticizing his character and the constant whiff of scandal that surrounds
- 'Death & destruction' -
Trump is under federal investigation for his efforts to overturn his 2020
election defeat and inciting the deadly riot at the US Capitol that his
supporters launched to halt the peaceful transfer of power to Joe Biden.
Commentators noted that he pointedly neglected to call for protesters to be
peaceful this time around.
In the early hours of Friday, Trump issued a dark warning about the
consequences of an indictment, predicting "potential death & destruction"
that "could be catastrophic for our Country."
He suggested that Bragg, who is leading the hush money probe, was a
"degenerate psychopath that truly hates the USA."
On Thursday, Trump invoked an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory popular among
Republicans as he called Bragg a "Soros-backed animal" -- suggesting falsely
that Jewish financier George Soros had contributed to Bragg's election.
Waco City Manager Bradley Ford told a news conference the city had first
received an inquiry about hosting the rally just two weeks ago -- sparking
frantic logistical and security planning.
"We're expecting thousands," McLennan County Republican Party Chair Brad
Holland added, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald.