It’s a rush Waco hasn’t seen in a long time. When former US President Donald Trump makes his first major appearance in the 2024 presidential election campaign on Saturday afternoon local time, at least 15,000 Trump supporters are expected at the event site at the regional airport. The city of 140,000 is in the heart of Trump country. Here the 76-year-old celebrated great success in his lost 2020 election, in the McLennan County constituency, where Waco is located, Trump won by more than 23 percentage points ahead of Joe Biden.

So it’s no wonder that Trump is hoping for a lot of support from his appearance, even though the appearance was only announced last week. In addition, the appearance is a welcome distraction from his legal problems. In New York, charges against Trump in connection with hush money payments to a porn star are expected in the next few days. In addition, the former president has many other legal problems to deal with. (You can read which ones here).

But the choice of venue doesn’t come without noise. Almost exactly 30 years ago, just a few kilometers from the gates of Waco, a drama took place that still attracts right-wing extremists and conspiracy theorists to this day. In April 1993, after a 51-day siege, FBI special forces stormed the building of the militant “Branch Davidians” sect led by David Koresh.

Already on the first day of the police operation in February, when officers wanted to execute a search warrant, there was an exchange of fire between the two sides, in which several people died, but the operation in April ended in disaster: a fire broke out in the building, 76 members of the sect, including pregnant women and children, died, as did sect leader Koresh. How the fire started is still unclear to this day and provides plenty of breeding ground for conspiracy theorists. The Texas city subsequently became a place of pilgrimage for right-wing extremists, who see Waco as a symbol of a tyrannical government that curtails citizens’ rights. The well-known and convicted conspiracy theorist Alex Jones even went so far as to have a chapel built on the sect’s premises – in which Trump is worshiped today. “Donald Trump is God’s anointed to crush the ‘Deep State’,” quoted the New York Times from a recent sermon in the chapel.

However, it was not his intention that he started his election campaign at a place of pilgrimage for right-wing extremists almost exactly 30 years after the incident. “Waco is very centrally located and close to the four major cities of Dallas, Austin, Houston and San Antonio and also offers the infrastructure to hold an event of this size,” Trump spokesman Steven Cheung told US media. Trump himself dodged questions about the location and significance on Friday. In an interview with the right-wing populist Newsmax, Trump did not answer the question of the symbolism and preferred to rant about the “kilometre-long queues” that would be waiting in front of the venue.

However, Trump has already demonstrated during his presidency that he has difficulty distancing himself from right-wing extremist groups. In a TV debate, Trump answered the question of whether he was distancing himself from right-wing groups: “Proud Boys – hold back and be ready”. The Proud Boys are a group of right-wing white men – Trump only distanced himself from them days later. Likewise, Trump did not want to fully condemn the far-right demonstrations in Charlottesville, in which a woman died in 2017. Trump was again criticized in the fall of 2022 when a dinner between the President and well-known anti-Semite Nick Fuentes became public.

But not everyone is convinced of the random location in Texas. In a column, the editors of the “Houston Chronicle” accused Trump of being well aware of the symbolism of the visit and of “stoking the fire in Waco”. The city is “a shrine to the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers and other anti-government extremists and conspiracy theorists,” the newspaper writes. Trump’s niece Mary accused the ex-president of fueling hatred in the city on Twitter. “It’s a ploy to remind his cult of the infamous 1993 siege that saw an anti-government cult feuding with the FBI,” wrote Mary Trump. Her uncle intended to cause the same violent chaos to save himself from justice. The symbolism of the visit to Waco should also be clear to Trump. When the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago home for classified documents last year, Trump also spoke publicly of his home being “besieged, raided and occupied” by the FBI.

For Trump, the appearance in Waco paved the way for further allegations against the government of Joe Biden and the prosecutors investigating him. Last weekend, the 76-year-old called on his social network Truth Social to protest against his possible arrest if charged in New York. During the week, Trump repeated his allegations against District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Trump attacked Bragg again on Thursday evening. “What kind of person can charge another person with a crime when everyone knows NO crime was committed,” Trump wrote on Truth Social. A “false charge” could result in “death and destruction” in the country. Only a “degenerate psychopath” who “hates the USA” could produce such an accusation, Trump continued to chafe. In a video published on Tuesday, Trump announced that he would lay off 100,000 government employees and replace them with “patriots” if he held another presidency.

What danger could also emanate from Bragg became obvious on Friday. According to US media reports, the district attorney’s office received a package with a suspicious white substance, but the contents turned out to be harmless. A card included in an envelope read, “Alvin – I’m going to kill you,” a police source said. With his appearance in Waco, Trump will cheer up the mood among his fanatical fans again.

Quellen: NY Times, Washington Post, Time, AP, AFP, Newsweek, Guardian