Donald Trump Holds Rally in Waco, 30 Years After Waco Siege

On March 24 2023, an Imgur account shared a tweet about former United States President Donald Trump staging a rally in Waco, Texas, from his niece Mary Trump:

Donald has a rally in Waco this Saturday [March 25 2023]. 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.

But we can stop him. If we book the 50,000+ venue, we can make sure most of the seats are empty when the traitor takes the stage.

We can no longer fail to hold powerful men accountable for their crimes against our country.

???? Hit the link below—each mobile number can register up to two tickets per event, for free. It may not seem like a big deal, but everybody who does this will make a difference. Trust me.

In a threaded, second tweet, she added a link to make reservations:

Trump’s tweet referenced “the infamous Waco siege of 1993, where an anti-government cult battled the FBI,” adding that her uncle wanted the “same violent chaos to rescue him from justice,” hoping to foment violence by using the history of his location to signal to his supporters:

The Waco standoff took place thirty years previously, from February 28 to April 19 1993.

Netflix, Branch Davidians, and the Waco Siege

On March 22 2023, three days before the scheduled Trump rally, Netflix released Waco: American Apocalypse.

An article in entertainment trade publication Variety reported on the documentary series on February 28 2023 — the anniversary of the beginning of the standoff — briefly summarizing the show:

Netflix’s next docu-series, “Waco: American Apocalypse,” will dig into how cult leader David Koresh faced off with the federal government in bloody 51-day siege … In 1993, TV viewers around the world became fascinated by the live reporting of the Waco conflict, which has since been touted as the largest gunfight on American soil since the Civil War.


“Waco: American Apocalypse” features videotapes filmed inside the FBI’s Hostage Negotiation Command Post, as well as never-before-seen news footage and FBI wiretap recordings.

Details of the deadly 1993 standoff in Waco, Texas were widely reported at the time. A timeline that appeared with a 1995 retrospective from Frontline included its bloody beginnings:

At about 9:30 a.m. agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms attempt to execute arrest and search warrants against David KORESH and the Branch Davidian compound. Gunfire erupts. Four ATF agents are killed and 16 are wounded. An undetermined number of Davidians are killed and injured. Within a few hours, the FBI becomes the lead agency for resolving the standoff. Jeff JAMAR is named the on-site commander. By the afternoon, advance units of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) arrive, and telephone conversations are under way between KORESH, Steve SCHNEIDER, and Wayne MARTIN on one side and the ATF’s Jim CAVANAUGH and Waco Police Lt. Larry LYNCH on the other. KORESH discloses that he has been wounded in the hip and left wrist. KORESH is allowed to broadcast his religious teachings on Dallas radio KRLD and does a CNN telephone interview. Michael SCHROEDER, a Branch Davidian, is killed while he tries to return to the main building. Texas Rangers begin an investigation but are barred by the FBI from continuing. At about 5:30 p.m., JAMAR arrives at Waco and chooses Byron SAGE of the FBI as chief negotiator. President CLINTON follows events closely throughout the day.’s “Waco siege” entry included information about Koresh and Branch Davidians sect of the Davidian Seventh-Day Adventist Church:

The Branch Davidians were founded by Ben Roden in 1959 as an offshoot of the Davidian Seventh-Day Adventist Church, which had been established by Victor Houteff several decades earlier. Houteff’s group eventually moved to a farm some 10 miles east of Waco, Texas, but by 1962 Roden and his followers had taken possession of the settlement, which was known as Mt. Carmel. There the Branch Davidians lived a simple life, preparing for the imminent return of Jesus. However, in the mid-1980s the group became embroiled in a power struggle, and by the end of the decade Vernon Howell (later called David Koresh) had become head of the Mt. Carmel community. He soon began taking “spiritual wives,” several of whom were reportedly as young as 11. Allegations of child abuse and Koresh’s launch of a retail gun business attracted the attention of legal authorities.

Believing that the group was illegally stockpiling weapons, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) obtained both an arrest warrant for Koresh and a search warrant for the compound. On February 28, 1993, more than 70 ATF agents raided the complex. Gunfire erupted—though it is uncertain who fired first—and during the two-hour battle, four federal agents were killed and more than a dozen injured. In addition, six Davidians reportedly died.

Historians have noted that the Waco siege, like the Ruby Ridge standoff, has been used as inspiration and fodder for extremist violence in the years since. Right-wing domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh, perpetrator of the Oklahoma City bombing, was strongly influenced by the events:

No event did more to radicalize McVeigh than did the stand-off near Waco, Texas between members of the Branch Davidians, a religious cult headed by David Koresh, and U. S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF)… The federal government’s actions so infuriated McVeigh that he traveled to Texas in March to sell bumper stickers with slogans such as “Fear the Government that Fears Your Gun.”  McVeigh was watching television at the farm of his army buddy, Terry Nichols, in Michigan on April 19 when the government forces (including the FBI and army) launched their attack against the heavily fortified Davidian compound.  Tanks rammed holes in the compound and agents fired CS gas inside.  Pyrotechnic devices fired into the building turned it into a raging inferno.  When it was over, 74 men, women, and children were found dead inside the compound.  McVeigh, in Michigan, sat stunned and appalled: “What is this? What has America become?”  He decided the time would come when he would strike back.

There is no shortage of people in the United States who have serious beefs with the federal government.  In addition to the anti-gun control crowd, there are anti-tax fanatics, white supremacists who resent government’s race and immigration policies, and a wide variety of persons who think the United States government is full of communists or “one-world-government” proponents.

Timothy McVeigh had most of these complaints with the government, and over the next two years would find himself in the company of many who shared much of his somewhat paranoid world view. At an April 1993 gun show in Tulsa, for example, McVeigh met Andreas Strassmeir, the grandson of a founder of the Nazi party and then the head of security for Elohim City, a 400-acre compound on the Arkansas-Oklahoma border founded by a white supremacist. (There is interesting, but inconclusive, evidence suggesting that Strassmeir might have been a federal undercover operative.)  In Kingman, Arizona, McVeigh renewed his friendship with army buddy Michael Fortier, an anti-gun control protester with a passion for far-right politics.  In the fall of 1993, McVeigh and Terry Nichols made their first visit to Elohim City, a hotbed of anti-government activity–including a plot to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City….’s article focused on a shift in public opinion about the Waco standoff:

The government’s handling of the situation drew sharp criticism, and Reno later expressed regret for authorizing the raid. While the government long maintained that it was not involved in starting or spreading the fire, in 1999 it was revealed that some of the tear gas used by the FBI was flammable. Later that year Reno appointed John Danforth, a lawyer and former Republican senator, to investigate the raid. His probe, which concluded in 2000, found that the U.S. government “did not cause the fire” nor did it shoot at the compound. Regardless of such findings, some people viewed the Waco siege as governmental abuse of authority, and it spurred the growth of militias. In 1995, on the second anniversary of the raid, Timothy McVeigh carried out the Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people.

A 2002 book, Mass-Mediated Terrorism: The Central Role of the Media in Terrorism and Counterterrorism, briefly quantified Americans’ “turnaround” about who was responsible for the massacre and what the shift in public opinion about Waco had to do with the Oklahoma City bombing:

Shortly after the the Oklahoma City bombing in April 1995, nearly three in four Americans approved of the actions of the FBI in Waco, but three months later, after an intensive mass-mediated debate of Waco and Oklahoma City, two in four Americans disapproved of the way the FBI and other Federal agencies handled the Waco situation. Similarly, while two in four Americans did not support a new round of congressional hearings on Waco shortly after the Oklahoma bombing, several weeks later, three in five supported additional hearings.

By triggering news coverage that revisited troublesome questions about the Waco raid, the Oklahoma City bomber [McVeigh] achieved what legitimate political actions, such as petitions to political leaders and peaceful protests, had not accomplished; Although the Congress had held hearings into the Waco incident in 1993 and exonerated the FBI, new hearings were conducted because of the Oklahoma City bombing, the heavy news coverage of the linkage between that bombing and Waco, and the turnaround in public opinion with respect to the FBI’s actions and the need for more congressional hearings.

Waco and Anti-Government Extremism

As broadly indicated, the American public initially accepted the Federal government’s assertions about the Waco siege; the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was a pivotal event in re-examining it.

In some respects, Waco was often discussed as one of a few interlinked events during a sharp rise in anti-government militias in the 1990s. A March 2000 report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, “Reshaping Extremism,” began:

The 1990’s was a remarkable decade on the American radical right with events such as Ruby Ridge, Waco, Oklahoma City, and the birth of the ‘New World Order.’

Ruby Ridge. Waco. Oklahoma City. The birth of the “New World Order” and the modern militia movement. By almost any account, it was a remarkable decade on the American radical right.

There was a sea change in the attitudes of the insurrectionists. In the 1980s, white supremacist groups like the Posse Comitatus and The Order murdered a number of people. But their targets seemed focused: law enforcement officials, a radio talk show host who had insulted extremists, alleged informers.

In September 2000, the SPLC published “Conspiracy Mongers Continue To Denounce Government’s Role In Waco,” in part describing the massacre as a radicalizing force:

An independent counsel and a federal jury both [found] that the U.S. is not responsible for the deaths in Waco.

For seven years, conspiracy mongers on the left and right have angrily denounced the government’s role in Waco, accusing it of starting the shootout that began a 51-day standoff with religious cultists, setting the fire that ended it and then using snipers to murder any who attempted to flee the holocaust.

An entire industry of conspiracy materials has grown up around the 1993 standoff, and the antigovernment “Patriot” movement grew to prominence partly by describing the conflict as emblematic of the government’s murderous treatment of dissenters.

Perhaps they should have waited.

This summer [2000], two major blows hit the Waco conspiranoiacs. On July 15 [2000], a five-person advisory panel to a federal judge ruled that the government was not responsible for the gun battle that began the standoff with the Branch Davidians or the fire that ended it.

In May 2001, SPLC described Waco and Ruby Ridge as galvanizing moments in what was at that point a “fading” movement:

… the Patriot movement — that particular expression of the radical antigovernment right that was characterized by citizen militias, vigilante “common-law” courts and strident paramilitarism — is fading. The bloody uprising that McVeigh hoped to inspire never occurred.

As Ruby Ridge and Waco — the seminal events of the Patriot world — slip into history, the radical right in the United States is evolving into new forms. It is more Nazified, more taken with racist versions of neo-Pagan religions, more anti-capitalist and, in its most “mainstream” forms, more successful at getting a hearing from the citizenry. And it is also more open to large-scale violence.

That last may be the real legacy of Tim McVeigh.

In American Terrorist, McVeigh speaks clinically of the 19 children he murdered as “collateral damage” that unfortunately distracted the public from his antigovernment message.

An April 2018 piece (freshly updated for the March 2023 Netflix series) explained the Waco siege in extensive detail. A section labeled “For some, the story of Waco is the story of government overreach” accurately identified it as a long-reaching predecessor to modern far-right movements:

By and large, the public treated the ending of the siege of Waco as the story of a crazy cult that had gotten the end it deserved, similar to the mass suicide at Jonestown. Just a day after the raid, then-President Bill Clinton argued that the FBI bore no responsibility for the deaths at Waco, saying: “I do not think the United States government is responsible for the fact that a bunch of religious fanatics decided to kill themselves.”

But for some, the Waco tragedy was the foundation of a different narrative: a story of unlawful government overreach, and of the consequences of federal aggression. On the political far right in particular, Waco became something of a rallying cry for those who saw the federal government as a threat. Right-wing anti-government bomber Timothy McVeigh, for example, carried out his 1995 Oklahoma City bombings in part as a direct response to Waco, where he had been an eyewitness at the siege.

As a 2015 New York Times story looking at Waco’s influence on today’s far right put it:

For right-wing militias and so-called Patriot groups, Waco amounts to evidence of a tyrannical, illegitimate government unblinkingly prepared to kill its own people … the specter of Waco has not faded. Right-wing extremists regularly invoke it as a defining moment, proof of Washington’s perfidy. “Waco can happen at any given time,” Mike Vanderboegh, a prominent figure in the Patriot movement, told Retro Report. He added ominously: “But the outcome will be different this time. Of that I can assure you.”

Vox linked to a 2015 New York TimesRetro Report,” “Memories of Waco Siege Continue to Fuel Far-Right Groups.” It addressed the border-focused conspiracy theory known as “Jade Helm,” adding:

As the [Jade Helm] conspiracy theories bubbled, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter was asked point blank at a news conference in May [2015] if a military takeover of Texas was in the works. “No,” Mr. Carter replied. Laughter accompanied both the question and the response, underscoring how frivolous the very idea seemed to those in the room.

Still, that such an exchange even took place was testament to the deep mistrust of government harbored by some Americans, more than a few of whom come to any dispute heavily armed. Hostility toward the federal government is hardly new. It can be traced at least as far back as the anti-tax Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s. But its modern roots may be summed up in a single word: Waco.

That word and its abiding significance are explored in the latest episode of Retro Report, a series of video documentaries that study the lasting consequences of major news stories of the past … The Waco events did not occur in a vacuum. Eight months earlier [in 1992], federal agents laid siege to the compound of a family of white separatists in Ruby Ridge, Idaho. That encirclement also ended badly, with several people killed, among them a 14-year-old boy. F.B.I. officials later acknowledged that their operations at Ruby Ridge had been “terribly flawed.”

As for Waco, a Harvard professor of law and psychiatry, Dr. Alan A. Stone, took the F.B.I. to task in a report to the Justice Department in November 1993. An apocalyptic sect like the Branch Davidians should not have been handled as if it would “submit to tactical pressure” the way a band of ordinary criminals would, Dr. Stone said. Government agents sought to prove to Mr. Koresh that they were in control. Instead, Dr. Stone said, they drove him to the “ultimate act of control — destruction of himself and his group.”

As public opinion on Waco evolved, one detail remained unchanged — that analysts and researchers considered the Waco siege as a turning point in American extremism.

Trump’s Escalating Calls for Violence, and Waco

Just as the events in Waco “did not occur in a vacuum,” neither did Donald Trump’s decision to stage a rally in Waco in March 2023.

On March 17 2023, Associated Press reported:

Law enforcement officials in New York are making security preparations for the possibility that former President Donald Trump could be indicted in the coming weeks and appear in a Manhattan courtroom in an investigation examining hush money paid to women who alleged sexual encounters with him, four law enforcement officials said [on March 17 2023].

There has been no public announcement of any timeframe for the grand jury’s secret work, including any potential vote on whether to indict the ex-president.

The law enforcement officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said authorities are just preparing in case of an indictment. They described the conversations as preliminary and are considering security, planning and the practicalities of a potential court appearance by a former president.

Anticipation of the former president’s indictment remained in the news cycle in March 2023. On March 18 2023, Trump falsely asserted that he would be arrested on March 21 2023 in a post to his TruthSocial network:


As of March 24 2023, Trump’s arrest hadn’t come to pass. On that day, he wrote a threatening post on TruthSocial warning of “potential death & destruction” as a result of his putative indictment:

What kind of person can charge another person, in this case a former President of the United States, who got more votes than any sitting President in history, and leading candidate (by far!) for the Republican Party nomination, with a Crime, when it is known by all that NO Crime has been committed, & also known that potential death & destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our Country? Why & who would do such a thing? Only a degenerate psychopath that truely hates the USA!

New York Rep. Ritchie Torres (D) tweeted about the threat in conjunction with the Waco rally:

On the same day, political news site published an article about the rally and associated threats, describing an escalation in Trump’s rhetoric and drawing parallels with his social media activity ahead of the deadly January 6 2021 Capitol insurrection:

The [death and destruction] post marked an escalation in Trump’s barrage of attacks against Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg as a grand jury is weighing whether to indict Trump over hush money payments made to a porn star to keep quiet an alleged affair during the 2016 campaign.

[Trump’s statement] is also likely to further fuel concerns that Trump is stoking violence ahead of potential charges.

Multiple outlets reported in recent weeks an indictment against Trump could be imminent in the Manhattan investigation. Trump last Saturday predicted on Truth Social that he would be arrested the following Tuesday [March 21 2023], though advisers said the post was not based on any advance warning.

At the same time, Trump began urging his supporters to protest and “take back our nation” in response to an indictment … Trump’s rhetoric has alarmed some onlookers, who likened it to Trump’s calls for supporters to travel to Washington, D.C., ahead of Jan. 6, 2021, when rioters stormed the Capitol building to try and stop the certification of the 2020 election results.

Finally, a March 24 2023 CNN editorial framed the Waco rally as “a provocation of historic significance”:

Donald Trump’s decision to hold the first rally of his 2024 bid for the White House in Waco, Texas, sends a powerful message about his unfolding presidential campaign …


Trump clearly knows the power of place. In the case of Waco, it is not just a provocation but a signal, likely to be read by those who have used force on Trump’s behalf as an invitation. For the past three decades, this incident has been a key element of far-right mythology: a rallying cry for armed resistance to the federal government and its representatives. For Trump, whose first term ended with an assault on the US Capitol, the choice to rally in Waco sends a clear message that will energize proponents of far-right extremism among his base.

It concluded:

When Trump became president in 2016, rather than becoming synonymous with the federal government as previous chief executives had done, he styled himself as both its victim and its adversary, promoting conspiracies about the deep state and encouraging supporters to keep him in power by any means necessary. In choosing Waco as the kickoff site for his campaign rallies, he has signaled that his courtship of extremist groups will continue, and that he sees his role as a pivotal figure in the far-right mythos as central to his efforts to retake the presidency.


Mary Trump’s March 23 2023 tweet about her uncle Donald Trump’s plans to hold a rally in Waco, Texas went viral. The tweet was accurate, and Trump scheduled a rally in Waco for March 25 2023, a date that happened to fall within the date range for the 30-year anniversary of the Waco standoff and massacre, a touchstone for far right extremists. Coupled with Trump’s repeated claims that his indictment was imminent, the rally was widely viewed as an open invitation to further violence.

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