The fact that Donald Trump is kicking off his 2023 hate rallies in Waco, Texas this weekend is not a coincidence, as the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle notes.
When Donald Trump flies into Waco on Saturday evening for the first major campaign event of his 2024 reelection quest, dog ears won’t be the only ones twitching. Trump doesn’t do subtle; dog-whistle messages are not his style. The more apt metaphor is the blaring air horn of a Mack 18-wheeler barreling down I-10.
The former president arrives in Waco during the 30th anniversary of the disastrous Branch Davidian debacle, a two-month-long siege by the ATF, the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies culminating in a fire storm that killed 74 people, including 21 children. What happened at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco on April 19, 1993, was the deadliest day in FBI history. (Additionally, four ATF agents and six Branch Davidians lost their lives on the first day of the 51-day siege.)
The GOP-friendly city of Waco — Trump won McLennan County by more than 20 percentage points in 2020 – has every right, of course, to host a former president, the leading contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, but “Waco” the symbol, like “Philadelphia, Miss.,” the symbol, means something else entirely. “Waco” has become an Alamo of sorts, a shrine for the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters, the Oath Keepers and other anti-government extremists and conspiracists.
Waco helped spawn what Fort Worth writer Jeff Guinn calls a “legacy of rage” in his new book about the Branch Davidian siege. The Northeast Texas Regional Militia of Texarkana erected a granite headstone at the site that reads as follows: "On February 28, 1993, a church and its members known as Branch Davidians came under attack by A.T.F. and F.B.I. agents. For 51 days the Davidians and their leader, David Koresh, stood proudly." As Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh put it, “Waco started this war.”
Thirty years later, the anti-government paramilitary groups feeding off lies about the “deep state” and a stolen election periodically visit the modest, little chapel on the site of the sprawling, ramshackle building that burned to the ground. Although the Branch Davidians had nothing to do with anti-government conspiracists, chapel construction was funded by loud-mouthed conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
Militia members and conspiracists know exactly what Trump’s Waco visit symbolizes. They have heard him castigate the FBI and the “deep state,” particularly after agents searched for classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. How they’ll respond to his remarks, particularly if he shows up as the first former president in American history to face criminal charges, has law enforcement in Waco and beyond taking every precaution. What he says will likely set the tone for the presidential campaign to come. Every American should be concerned.
The Trump campaign insists that the candidate’s visit during the Branch Davidian anniversary is purely coincidental. A spokesman said the campaign was looking for a site away from the big cities but close enough to Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, Houston and San Antonio to draw a crowd. The Waco Regional Airport and an expected crowd of 10,000 or so fit the bill. Of course, Temple or Belton or Killeen (home to Fort Hood) would have fit the bill, as well — without the weight of symbolism.
Trump alerted his followers that the feds were coming to get him with an all-caps alert last Saturday morning on Truth Social, his social-media site: “THE FAR & AWAY LEADING REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE & FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, WILL BE ARRESTED ON TUESDAY OF NEXT WEEK. PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!”
His call to arms echoed his “Be there, will be wild,” exhortation a few weeks before January 6, as well as his “fight like hell” screed on the Ellipse, shortly before several thousand insurrectionists took him at his word, marched up Pennsylvania Ave. and sacked the Capitol.
The Proud Boys and other anti-government extremists with a propensity for violence took him seriously on that ignominious day. They might do the same in Waco.
A powdery substance was found Friday with a threatening letter in a mailroom at the offices of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the latest security scare as the prosecutor weighs a potential historic indictment of former President Donald Trump, authorities said.
New York City police and environmental protection officials isolated and removed the suspicious letter, and testing “determined there was no dangerous substance,” Bragg spokesperson Danielle Filson said. The substance was sent to a city lab for further examination, police said.
“Alvin, I am going to kill you,” the letter said, according to a person familiar with the matter. The person was not authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing investigation and did so on condition of anonymity.
Multiple law enforcement sources told NBC News that there have been discussions about additional security measures for the judge assigned to the Trump case as well as the prosecutors involved. There have been several hundred threats to Bragg, the DA’s office and others in recent weeks, a senior New York law enforcement official said. A few dozen are considered directly threatening serious harm to Bragg.
Trump still has the ability to assemble large crowds at a given location. While Trump has called for supporters to "PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST," he has not yet given his followers a time and place to assemble. Security officials worry that if he does, that could spell trouble, just as it did on Jan. 6.
Researchers who monitor the online spaces where far-right groups organize say that while efforts to coordinate a large protest have largely fallen flat so far, users are still calling for the assassination or capture of Democratic political figures.
“I want every traitor hanging from a rope when all this ends. EVERY TRAITOR. They can all die,” one person wrote in an online forum used by Trump supporters.
“Now it’s time we Americans need to go in guns blazing I’m willing to risk my life to show biden crimes are far worse. Civill war is now if he arrested,” a user wrote on Truth Social, the former president’s social media platform.
Daniel J. Jones, head of the nonpartisan, nonprofit online tracking firm Advance Democracy, said that “Trump’s calls to ‘protest’ in response to his reported impending arrest have led to threats of violence against government officials and law enforcement.”
Jones noted that users on the Trump-owned Truth Social and the pro-Trump forum TheDonald, where users shared travel plans and pictures of weapons ahead of the Jan. 6 riot, were posting threats of violence targeting Bragg.