A Texas newspaper’s editorial board called former President Donald Trump’s first scheduled rally in Waco, Texas, a “blaring air horn” for some of his most extreme followers, pointing out the symbolism tied to the Waco siege anniversary.
Trump, who is the current front-runner of the 2024 GOP primary, is planning on hosting his rally at Waco Regional Airport on Saturday. The former president has previously been popular in the traditionally red state, including winning the state of Texas by 5.5 percentage points in his national election loss to President Joe Biden in 2020. Texas Republicans, many of whom were backed by Trump, also had a nearly sweeping victory in the 2022 midterms.
But as the Houston Chronicle editorial board pointed out Thursday, Trump’s coming rally is scheduled during the 30th anniversary of the siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco—a botched federal raid on a religious sect that is seen as a potent symbol for anti-government and extremist groups.
Former President Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Greenwood, Nebraska, on May 1, 2022. Trump will host a rally in Waco, Texas, on Saturday during the 30th anniversary of the deadly Waco siege.
On February 28, 1993, federal agents attempted to raid the religious compound to arrest its leader, David Koresh, who was believed to be harboring illegal firearms and sexually abusing children living on the compound. The siege, conducted by the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, lasted 51 days, ending on April 19, 1993, when the compound’s main building erupted into flames, killing 76 people inside, including 25 children.
The Chronicle’s piece on Thursday accused Trump of picking Waco for his “first major campaign event” as an overinflated version of dog-whistle politics—conveying a political message through coded or subtle symbols, which, as the editorial team writes, is made “for those with ears to hear.”
“Trump doesn’t do subtle; dog-whistle messages are not his style,” the Chronicle wrote. “The more apt metaphor is the blaring air horn of a Mack 18-wheeler barreling down I-10.”
According to the paper, Waco serves as a chance for Trump to play to the far-right conspiracy theorist groups who support the former president, without being too obvious.
“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,” the editorial said, “but ‘Waco’ 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.”
The Chronicle also notes the timing of Trump’s Waco rally to his anticipated indictment in Manhattan court, where District Attorney Alvin Bragg may be wrapping up his investigation into whether Trump played a role in the hush-money payout given to Stormy Daniels during his 2016 campaign.
Over the weekend, the former president had attempted to rally his supporters in New York City ahead of his potential arrest, which Trump predicted to occur on Tuesday.
“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 Chronicle wrote regarding Trump’s calls for protests this week.
“The Proud Boys and other anti-government extremists with a propensity for violence took him seriously on that ignominious day” the paper continued. “They might do the same in Waco.”
Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, told USA Today this week that the city of Waco and the Branch Davidian legacy “is hugely symbolic on the far right.”
“There’s not really another place in the U.S. that you could pick that would tap into these deep veins of anti-government hatred—Christian nationalist skepticism of the government—and I find it hard to believe that Trump doesn’t know that Waco represents all of these things,” Beirich told the outlet.
According to the Chronicle, Trump’s campaign has insisted that his visit to Waco is “purely coincidental.” A spokesperson told the paper that the former president’s team “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,” the Chronicle said. “Of course, Temple or Belton or Killeen (home to Fort Hood) would have fit the bill, as well—without the weight of symbolism.”
Steven Cheung, spokesperson for Trump, reiterated to Newsweek in an email Thursday night that Trump’s rally is scheduled in Waco “because it is centrally located to all four of Texas’ biggest metropolitan areas—Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio—while providing the necessary infrastructure to hold a rally of this magnitude.”
“This is the ideal location to have as many supporters from across the state and in neighboring states attend this historic rally,” Cheung said.
Update 3/23/2023, 10:32 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional comment from Steven Cheung, spokesperson for Trump.
Source : Newsweek